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Older Women Workers Tend to Experience Both Age and Gender Discrimination

February 23rd, 2021

Most people have heard of gender and age discrimination in the workplace, and recent studies show that these two kinds of discrimination are common among older female workers.

Additionally, older women often experience statistical discrimination. In this type of discrimination, a person is judged according to age-related stereotypes. For example, a company or hiring manager may assume that an older worker will not understand new technology. Also, older female workers often experience taste-based discrimination. This occurs when there is an obvious and outright preference for a younger worker over an older one. Despite federal and state legislation that makes gender and age discrimination illegal, they still exist in workplaces.

Are Older Women Protected Against Workplace Discrimination?

There are federal protections in place for older workers; however, employers do not always follow them, and discriminatory behavior is often difficult to prove. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) bans age discrimination against workers over 40 years old in organizations with 20 or more workers. The ADEA prohibits the following:

  • Discrimination in hiring, promotions, termination of employment, layoffs, and wages.
  • Statements regarding age preference or limitations.
  • Denied or reduced benefits for workers over 40 years old.
  • Mandatory retirement.

Included in the ADEA is the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), which prohibits employers from targeting older workers in layoffs or staff reductions and using an employee’s age to discriminate regarding employee benefits.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits treating a job applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person’s sex, gender identity, transgender status, or sexual orientation. It forbids sex discrimination in hiring, firing, titles, promotions, assignments, training, benefits, and any other employment condition or term. It also forbids sexual harassment in the workplace, including verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature or offensive remarks about a person’s gender. Harassment is illegal when its frequnecy or severity creates a hostile work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also has laws that prohibit workplace gender discrimination. Any worker experiencing discrimination should contact an attorney.

How Do I Recognize Gender and Age Discrimination in the Workplace?

While many employers have written rules and codes of conduct that prohibit discrimination, it still exists in many workplaces. Discrimination may be hard to detect because few employers will be obvious about it, but every woman over the age of 40 years old should look for certain signs, including the following:

  • Being passed over for a promotion while a younger worker or male with fewer qualifications is promoted to the position.
  • Being laid off first in cost-cutting efforts because older workers generally have higher salaries.
  • Noticing a large influx of younger employees in the department or company overall while the hiring of older workers is almost non-existent.
  • Hearing age-related comments or slurs in the workplace.
  • Seeing a measurable reduction in work assignments, territories, and clients while younger employees people pick up more of the same.
  • Being turned down for a job because a man has always held the position or the job is in a male-dominated industry.
  • Being offered a buyout, even though the company is hiring younger workers.
  • Not receiving a raise or similar compensation because one has reached the highest salary for the position.
  • Being let go just before being vested or eligible for certain benefits or retirement.
  • Being paid less than a man for the same work.
  • Being hired for a lesser position despite being more qualified than the man who got the job.
  • Having more difficult goals or having to achieve higher standards than a man in the same position.

The above is not a complete list of workplace sex and age discriminatory actions. However, these examples can help a woman become aware of differences in how she is treated or respected at work. Age and gender discrimination are illegal according to both federal and Pennsylvania laws.

How Do I Prove Age and Gender Discrimination in Pennsylvania?

Both age and gender discrimination in Pennsylvania are hard to prove. Most human resources (HR) departments and company executives and managers are aware of the laws. However, this does not stop a company from hiding or ignoring discriminatory behaviors. An employee with an age discrimination claim must prove the following:

  • They are 40 years old or older and a member of the protected class.
  • They are qualified for their position and performed it adequately.
  • Suffered an adverse career action, such as termination, demotion, they did not get a deserved promotion, or they were laid off first in a cost-cutting effort.
  • Were a victim of circumstances that infer discrimination.

An employee must often use indirect evidence in an age discrimination claim. They should keep notes, emails, timelines, and other communications about the suspected discrimination. They should also gather statistics showing the employer’s track record of hiring, promoting laying off, or promoting older workers, and collect evidence of discrimination against other older employees.

Similar to age discrimination, gender discrimination is difficult to prove. It may be even more complex for older women workers because they are often not taken as seriously or seen as credible compared to their male or younger colleagues. The law recognizes that there is seldom direct evidence of gender discrimination. Therefore, an employee can bring a sex discrimination claim by using indirect evidence. For a claim, the employee must establish the following:

  • They are qualified for the job in question.
  • They suffered an adverse employment action.
  • Similarly situated persons who are not members of the protected class were treated more favorably or that the circumstances infer discrimination.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Age or Gender Discrimination?

The first step is to contact an attorney as soon as there is a hint of discrimination. An attorney will advise the employee on what to record or collect in terms of evidence, what to look for and be aware of in the workplace, and counsel them on their rights and next steps. The next steps could include contacting the company’s HR department and filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws. There are time limits in discrimination cases, so an older female worker who suspects discrimination should act promptly.

Philadelphia Discrimination Attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Advocate for Older Women Workers

No one should endure the financial and emotional devastation of discrimination in the workplace. Studies prove that older women workers are often victims of both age and gender discrimination. Our Philadelphia discrimination attorneys at The Gold Law Firm P.C. know how employers will defend themselves, so we will bring the strongest case and evidence to the table. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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