There you are at the office, smiling within at all the energetic young employees who seem to be settling into their roles; and then suddenly, you hear some young upstart behind you asking you to “Step aside, bald eagle”. When it comes time for the meeting where you expect to be handed a few important assignments, the boss, who is your age, seems to prefer people under 30 for any discussions to do with social networking. And that last promotion that you got passed over for, you strongly suspect that your age had something to do with it. With age discrimination, workplace-related decisions on what to do and how to react become quite difficult.
Aging in the workplace has suddenly become a real and present problem. About half of America is coming to realize that the retirement savings they thought they could rely on are simply not enough for them to retire on. More and more people are hoping to work until they turn 70. With a workplace that is rapidly turning gray, America is quickly beginning to realize that people need to be taught to be sensitive to what it means to be old. Companies need to learn that older employees are not to be marginalized because they just look a certain age. One thing that should push them harder towards this kind of sensitivity is the fact that people who feel discriminated against aren’t taking it quietly anymore. The number of awsuits filed claiming age discrimination have risen by 60% over the past 10 years. The American workplace is going to have to learn to deal with aging if for no reason other than to stay clear of the kind of legal trouble that comes out of allowing people to act inappropriately.
For workers who come to suffer age discrimination, workplace a lawsuit may seem like the only option to turn to. It may seem like a great way to deal a blow to one’s tormentors. In reality, however, coming by that kind of satisfaction is never that straightforward. In a lawsuit about age discrimination, workplace colleagues one accuses have nothing to worry about. The burden of proof, and it can be very high, always rests squarely on the plaintiff. Most of the time, there is precious little proof to offer. Anyway, these cases take five years and justice can be very slow coming.
Going through all this trouble, your reward is not certain. The only thing that’s certain to come out of the whole sad mess is often just a lawyer’s bill for a quarter million dollars. This is not to discourage anyone from pursuing what must be viewed as a person’s right to demand fair treatment. But the courts require concrete evidence, specific information about the exact people involved, times, dates, exact quotes, witnesses and patterns of behavior. And even if one can show all of this, one still needs to be able to prove to the court that the discrimination that took place had something to do with one’s age.
It is usually people who have had long and stellar track records at the same company who are able to succeed in these cases. Anyone considering a lawsuit of this kind needs to make sure that they pursue and exhaust all other options first. They need to talk to their boss about the problem, talk to human resources, and in general make sure that they give the company a fair enough chance.