While the IT industry has made great strides in becoming a more accepting workplace, age discrimination often remains an unfortunate reality. IT companies often seek out younger employees because they don't believe older ones can keep up with the current pace of technology. They may also feel that younger employees make the company appear as if they're on the cutting edge of technological advancement. As a result, older employees may be denied training or advancement opportunities or be forced into early retirement.
If you work in IT and you're over the age of 40, it's important for you to know your rights regarding age discrimination. If believe that you may have been discriminated against, read on for what you need to know about the rights that you have, how discrimination can potentially occur and what you should do next.
What Protections Are Available for Older Employees?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was passed 1967. It's a federal law that was specifically crafted to protect older employees from being discriminated against. For employers with over 25 workers, employees over the age of 40 are considered a protected class.
As a protected class, people over the age of 40 cannot be discriminated against in favor of younger employees in any way. This includes being denied job opportunities, receiving a lower wage, being denied benefits or professional development, being fired, and being forced into early retirement.
How Can Employers Potentially Discriminate Against Older Employees in IT?
Professional development is a must for IT companies, as it allows employees to learn new technical skills. Unfortunately, some employers believe that older employees are incapable of learning anything new—they may be passed over for professional development opportunities in favor of younger employees. If only younger employees are given opportunities for training and older ones are held back, this is potentially a form of age discrimination.
This above mindset can extend into changes in workload as well. Older employees may be forced into roles they don't have the technical skills for. Another form this can take is forcing older employees to take on workloads that are impossible for one person to accomplish. This can lead to poor performance reviews, which are then used as a justification for termination or early retirement. If this only happens to older employees and not younger ones, then it can be a potential case of age discrimination of the workplace.
Additionally, IT companies often want to present themselves as younger companies on the cutting edge of technology. Older employees may be denied opportunities to speak to clients or go to trade shows, with the company instead giving these roles to younger employees.
Reductions in staffing or departmental restructuring that results in primarily older employees losing their jobs (potentially to be replaced with younger ones), can also be a sign that the company discriminates against older employees.
What Should You Do if You Feel That You Were a Victim of Age Discrimination?
If you feel that an employer discriminated against you because of your age, you'll need to formally file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) You can do this easily online—they will walk you through the steps and tell you what information you need to submit. If you need help with this process, contact an employment attorney.
It's best to do this as soon as possible after you experienced age discrimination, because you often only have 180 days to file a charge. For states which have their own age discrimination laws, such as California and Florida, you have 300 days.
If the EEOC believes that age discrimination has happened, they will notify your employer and give them time to rectify the situation—for example, they may hire you back if they forced you into early retirement.
If your employer won't correct their discriminatory behavior, then you'll need to contact an employment attorney and file an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer. The purpose of the lawsuit is to prove to a jury that you were specifically discriminated against because of your age. If your case is successful, you may receive back pay, punitive damages and benefits that were lost to you as a result of discrimination.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your age, immediately contact an employment discrimination attorney and begin the process of filing a complaint with the EEOC.