Hostile Work Environment – Age Discrimination
If you have been harassed at work because of your age, you may be a victim of age discrimination. Age discrimination occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or employee unfavorably because of their age. There are several laws that apply to age discrimination in Colorado. However, these laws only protect workers that fall within a certain age range – not all ages are protected.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA, 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.) is a federal law that was enacted in 1967 in order to prevent age discrimination in employment. The ADEA only protects workers who are aged 40 or older. It does not protect any worker who is younger than 40. The ADEA prohibits discriminatory acts such as:
- Harassing a worker because of their age;
- Firing a worker because of their age;
- Not hiring a worker because of their age; and
- Giving favorable job assignments or other terms of employment to younger workers.
Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act
Like the ADEA, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (Co. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402) also offers protections against age discrimination. In general, the Anti-Discrimination Act offers protections similar to those of the ADEA. However, the Anti-Discrimination Act applies to employers in Colorado regardless of their number of employees, while the ADEA only applies to private employers if they have 15 or more employees.
Although the Anti-Discrimination Act originally only protected workers between the ages of 40 and 70 years old, this upper age limit has been removed. Effective January 1, 2015, the Anti-Discrimination Act will protect any worker who is 40 years or older from age discrimination.
Hostile Work Environment Claims
A hostile work environment claim is a type of age discrimination claim that is based on harassment that occurs in the workplace. The harasser can be an employer, supervisor, co-worker, customer, or client. The harasser can even be older than the victim, so long as the victim falls within the protected age group.
Examples of prohibited harassment may include:
- Jokes about a worker’s age;
- Derogatory statements about people who are a particular age;
- Derogatory nicknames, such as “old man” or “grandpa”;
- Repeatedly giving an older worker unpleasant or demeaning tasks;
- Asking when you are going to retire; and
- Isolating you from other workers.
In order to create a hostile work environment, behaviors such as those above must be repeated or severe. One joke about a worker’s age will be insufficient to support a hostile work environment claim. However, repeated joking or one severe instance of harassment may be enough.
Contact a Colorado Age Discrimination Attorney
Older workers should be valued and respected, not subject to workplace harassment because of their age. If you believe you are a victim of age discrimination, it is important to contact an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible. At HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, we have experience bringing hostile work environment claims and lawsuits against employers. We also represent employers who have been accused of discrimination.
If you are a victim of age discrimination in the workplace, contact HKM Employment online or call us at 303-991-3075 for a private consultation.