What age discrimination looks like in the workplace
“We do not want to invest in someone who will retire so soon.”
“Perhaps you would benefit from working with people your own age.”
“We prefer to maintain our youthful culture.”
“We prefer to hire more mature employees.”
What do all of these statements have in common? In each one, the speaker is drawing a distinction between the recipient of the statement, and those of a different age group, which negatively affects the recipient. In the workplace, this can amount to discrimination on the basis of age, or “ageism”.
Age discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and all employees over the age of 18 (with limited exceptions) benefit from the anti-discrimination provisions of federal and Ontario human rights legislation.
Age discrimination can occur anytime an employee is unfairly distinguished because of his or her age. Ageism does not need to be overt, or plain and obvious, in order to constitute discrimination. In fact, ageism is quite often subtle, and done without malice or realization that ageism is occurring.
For example, an employer may want to maintain a certain culture that is more prevalent amoung younger generations, thereby denying employment to a senior applicant in the process. While the employer’s intent may have been innocent, the consequence is that an older job applicant has been unfairly denied employment for no reason other than his or her date of birth.
Similarly, an employer’s desire to maintain a more mature workplace may inadvertently hold younger employees to higher standards in order to obtain employment. The employer’s intent may be sincere, but the way in which prospective employees are vetted may not be.
Here are some important things both employers and employees should remember in order to avoid age discrimination:
- Employers cannot deny a benefit or opportunity (such as employment, promotions, raises, etc.) to an employee that is in anyway motivated by the employee’s age
- Mandatory retirement after a certain age is illegal
- Even though laws dealing with age discrimination only apply to employees over 18 years of age, employers are still bound by their duties of good faith and fair dealing in connection with their younger employees
- Anti-age discrimination laws apply not only during employment, but during the application and screening process as well.
Author: Marc Kitay, Employment Lawyer