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Are you unintentionally discriminating against older workers?

| Apr 5, 2021 | Employment Law |

Discriminating against workers or job applicants can land an employer in hot water, so employers should make every effort to avoid discriminatory practices and policies. But even the best-intentioned employers may still be discriminating against workers unwittingly.

For instance, some employers might be mistreating older workers or excluding them from employment opportunities without realizing it.

What is age discrimination?

Federal and Minnesota laws prohibit discriminating against workers because of their age. Some people view older workers as being slower or less tech-savvy. But assumptions and biases like these should not drive employment decisions.

Unintentional discrimination

Even if you are not intentionally treating older workers unfairly, you could be accused of inadvertent discrimination. Some actions that can trigger a complaint include:

  • Advertising job postings in places more senior candidates may not use
  • Using phrases like “recent college graduate” or “digital native” in job postings
  • Promoting younger workers over older workers to add “fresh perspective”
  • Conducting layoffs that disproportionately affect workers over 40 years of age
  • Referring to an employee as over-the-hill or ancient
  • Excluding older employees from work events and activities

Another way employers could be discriminating against older workers stems from the pandemic.

As this Financial Times article discusses, some employers are laying off older workers first and bringing younger employees back to work sooner.

Even if these actions are unintentional, they still might violate an employee’s rights.

Avoiding legal claims

Regularly assessing your workplace and employment policies can ensure you are not violating employee rights. It can also help to provide regular anti-discrimination training to managers. These measures can be especially wise if you must lay off workers or you are looking to hire new people.

If you are unsure whether something could be construed as discriminatory, you should consult an attorney for guidance.

Even if age discrimination is unintentional or you disagree with someone’s discrimination claims, employers must take accusations seriously and respond appropriately.