Both Minnesota and Federal law prohibit employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against employees on the basis of their age.
Our work in this field has taught us that age discrimination is alive and well, sadly.
It’s fairly well known by now that federal law protects employees over the age of 40. It’s not as well known that Minnesota’s protections for workers are actually much broader. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, any worker over 18-years-old can assert a claim for discrimination against a covered employer on the basis he or she was treated differently because of age or terminated because of his or her age. The law carves out limited exceptions, for example, where companies maintain written policies regarding mandatory retirement ages.
Both state and federal laws also prohibit employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against employees who have, among other things, reported to their employers that they think they’ve experienced age discrimination. Such an act of reprisal or retaliation is a separate legal claim apart from the underlying discrimination itself.
As with other forms of illegal workplace discrimination, there are telltale signs of discrimination and not-so-obvious indicators that age is motivating a manager.
For example, harassing and hostile comments aimed at an employee’s age are obvious signs that age discrimination might be taking place. While courts aren’t always friendly to so-called “stray remarks” and jokes, we view such things as calling an employee“grandma” or frequently questioning an employee’s intentions with respect to retirement to be direct evidence supporting possible age discrimination. These bits of evidence coupled with less-obvious, circumstantial indicators can go a long way. Circumstantially, older workers might start to document how they are being held to unfair performance standards compared to their younger counterparts when it comes to objective company policies and goals. These are especially important things to document if you think you are being “performance managed” as a cover-up for age discrimination—the classic “papering of the file” in the run up to an unfair (and possibly illegal) termination.
If you have more questions about age discrimination or retaliation, feel free to schedule one of our 20-minute, Free Phone Evaluations or a face-to-face meeting in our Downtown Minneapolis or Edina office.