Zachary Zawarski is an employment attorney in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. One of the main practice areas is employment discrimination, including age discrimination. Employees are protected under both federal and state law in PA. The laws that relate to age discrimination are the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).
Everyone over the age of 40 is protected by age discrimination laws. The basis of a potential claim is that a person over the age of 40 is being treated differently from someone younger than them. Even if the other employee who is being treated differently is over 40, you may still have a claim for age discrimination. For example, if you are 55 and being treated differently than an employee who is 45, you still have a claim.
Like all employment discrimination claims, the employee must suffer an adverse employment action, which is defined as a material change in the terms or conditions of your employment. This generally means being terminated, demoted, a decrease in pay or benefits, or an undesirable job transfer.
In order to establish a claim for age discrimination, the employee needs to establish causation. There must be a connection between the employment action taken and the employee’s age. For example, if a 60-year-old worker is constantly subjected to age jokes, is then terminated, and then replaced with a younger worker, that person would have a strong claim for age discrimination.
Most times people wonder if “general mistreatment” can be a basis for age discrimination. There are no employment laws that require employers to be respectful and courteous to their employees, even older employees. In order to support a claim for age discrimination, there must be facts and circumstances that indicate that the mistreatment is due to your age. If the mistreatment is due to your age, you may have a claim for a hostile work environment.
Lastly, if you raise a claim for age discrimination, the burden will shift to the employer to establish a non-discriminatory basis for their action. This allows the employer to justify their actions on a basis other than age. For example, the employer can justify their decision on poor job performance. Once this occurs, the burden will then shift back to the employee to argue that the employer’s given reason is not the real reason for their action, but was actually based on age.
If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your age, please contact me by calling (610) 417-6345 for a consultation.