How do I Prove Age Discrimination?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2019
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Proving age discrimination can be extremely difficult depending on the case. It is not enough to suspect that age discrimination has occurred or to feel that you have been treated unfairly on the basis of your age. Building a solid case for age discrimination is extremely complicated, because an employer can often state that an unrelated quality resulted in the decision being questioned. Winning a case involving this type of discrimination is extremely difficult, so an experienced attorney should be consulted in order to prove that age discrimination occurred.

The first step when attempting to prove that this type of discrimination has occurred is to understand what constitutes age discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of age is very difficult if not impossible to prove if a person is passed over for being too young, as age and experience are often considered interchangeable. If a company falls into certain categories, then the company may not need to follow guidelines on age discrimination at all, so even if discrimination has occurred it cannot be prosecuted.


It is important to make sure that your claim is airtight, as companies will try every tactic to get out of compensating a person who makes a discrimination charge. For example, it is essential to make sure that there are no other possible reasons that you might have been passed over. Of even more importance is making sure that the person who received the favorable decision is a younger person. If possible, collecting evidence that this type of discrimination has happened before is extremely helpful when trying to demonstrate that the company has a tendency toward discrimination.

One easy way to find concrete evidence about discrimination is to look at hiring notices. In most cases, an employer cannot note an age preference in any advertisement about the job. Requirements that could not possibly be filled by an older employee might be noted, but they cannot be stated in terms of age.

While decisions that result in material gain, such as hiring or promotion, are possibly the most important age discrimination problems that might occur in a workplace, other problems relating to age may also arise. For example, distribution of benefits may unfairly favor younger workers, or harassment based on age may occur. Whenever there is any question of unfair treatment, the most important thing to remember is that gathering concrete evidence can make or break a case. Keeping hard evidence like emails and notes that cannot be denied can help get a favorable outcome for a discrimination case.


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Post 4

How about when someone puts up a job ad saying "successful applicants must be 25 years of age or older for insurance purposes"?

Post 3

@MissDaphne - You make a good point about how hard it is for people to even be sure they've been discriminated against.

I absolutely support age and other discrimination laws, but they can have the unfortunate effect of protecting bad employees. I had a temp job once where the person I was filling in for was just a bad worker (lazy, rude, etc.). Her supervisor wanted to fire her, but she happened to be pregnant. She went to the "big boss" and complained that she thought she was going to be fired because she was pregnant!

"Big Boss" told the supervisor not to fire her because they didn't want to get sued (even if they would win). It's not hard to imagine similar cases happening with other protected classes. And the really sad thing is that the supervisor will probably hesitate to hire a pregnant applicant in the future if there is someone else equally qualified.

Post 2

The unfortunate thing is that you really almost have to have a pattern of discrimination to make a case. If a company is discriminating against all its older workers or applicants, it may become a lost more apparent than if there is just one supervisor who doesn't hire older people.

Age or other discrimination cases probably often don't even get brought because people calculate that they are better off. I worked at a private school once where the women teachers were pretty sure that they made less than the men. But they didn't want to lose good jobs, and of course they couldn't be sure without having access to confidential payroll records.

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