Age discrimination in the workplace is unfortunately common. According to one study by AARP, over 60% of Americans aged 45 or older have been affected by age discrimination in their place of work. Age discrimination on the job is illegal and workers over the age of 40 are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (commonly known as ADEA). This 1967 law provides protections to workers under federal law, but most states have additional laws that provide further protection.

Thanks to these laws that protect workers, you have options for redress if you believe that you have been the victim of age discrimination. Knowing whether your case is likely to succeed is more difficult, however. When considering an age discrimination lawsuit, consider these four questions first.

Are You Protected?

The first question you should be asking is whether your particular case falls under the umbrella of federal or state age discrimination laws. The ADEA in particular has several fairly tough restrictions. Its protections do not apply to independent contractors, military officials, or anyone employed by a company with fewer than twenty employees. It's this final point that often leads many workers out to dry, as roughly 17% of all US employees work for firms with 20 employees or fewer.

Luckily, state laws generally offer tougher protections to fill in this gap. You can find an overview of applicable state laws here. Only a handful of states do not offer protection to employees of small firms, and many states have no minimum employee limit at all. Check with the specific laws of your state to determine if you are covered.

Has There Been a Change in How You Are Treated at Work?

Since part of proving an age discrimination case involves proving that you have been treated unfairly on the basis of your age specifically, it is important to note whether your treatment at work has changed significantly. This may mean that raises have stopped in recent years or that you are suddenly suffering from poor performance reviews despite your work performance remaining unchanged or even improving. If you believe you have been terminated due to your age, was the termination without apparent cause?

Is the Unfair Treatment Focused on You?

Aside from proving that you have been treated unfairly, it is also important to prove that the treatment is the result of your age. If you are the only older employee at your workplace, can you show that younger employees are generally treated better? If there are other employees of a similar age or even older, are they also being treated unfairly? Unfortunately, not all unfair treatment is illegal. Age discrimination cases can often be most difficult to pursue when an employer simply treats everyone badly, as it is difficult to prove that any one instance of bad behavior is due to discrimination.

Is Your Workplace Dominated by Younger Employees?

Note whether your workplace is currently dominated by younger employees and whether this is a new trend or something that has been ongoing for years. If older employees seem to leave or be terminated more often and new hires are almost always younger, then it is possible that your workplace has an age discrimination issue. On the other hand, it can be difficult to prove that age discrimination exists if older employees are routinely hired or if there are many long-term older employees. 

For more information, get in touch with a firm that offers age discrimination law services.