When many think about age discrimination, they think of missed opportunities for promotion, unfairly being selected for layoff, and being passed over for hire by companies seeking younger workers. An often-overlooked form of ageism comes in the form of teasing. Those subtle day-to-day interactions, while playful to some, can be perceived as offensive, degrading, and humiliating. In short, it is harassment and the unfortunate reality for many workers 40 and older.

Yes, these insults are, at times, delivered in a mean-spirited manner, but those saying such comments are often unaware of how it is taken by the employee. Regardless, jibes such as “old timer” or “grandpa” can have a profound effect on the wellbeing of older workers. As it turns out, Even the popular phrase “Okay, boomer,” is not okay.

Derogatory descriptors associated with advancing age can also be considered an act of age discrimination. Employers should not tolerate comments reflecting issues with mental clarity, physical ability, eyesight, and hearing.  Older workers are working because they have something to offer and wish to be treated the same as all employees should not be treated differently, considered differently for new roles or promotions, or harassed because of their age.

The point at which the line is crossed is partially determined by frequency.  The law looks to the standard of “severe and/or pervasive.” An isolated comment or an offhand remark typically would not qualify as harassment unless it is severe in nature. If, however, this type of behavior commonly occurs in your workplace, and is knowingly tolerated by supervisors or management, then it might be time to speak with an attorney.

If you are a worker aged 40 or older who has experienced harassment in the workplace or feel you have received discrimination through hiring practices, lack of promotional opportunities, or been laid off in favor of hiring or retaining younger workers, give us a call. You are protected by both federal and Minnesota law, and we will work to ensure the behavior stops and you get the settlement you deserve.