Harassment is a form of discrimination characterized by unwanted physical or verbal conduct. Age harassment occurs when such discriminatory actions or words are directed at an individual based on his or her age.
Age harassment is most frequently aimed at older individuals, although it can technically be aimed at people of any age. In the workplace, age harassment usually presents itself in one of two primary manifestations. In the first, older workers endure age harassment in the form of ageist jokes and other remarks made by managers or coworkers. In the second, older workers face harassment in the form of discriminatory practices that are intended to force them out of the workplace.
Recognizing Workplace Age Harassment
Two criteria determine when a specific pattern of behavior has passed the threshold into age harassment. Only one of these criteria needs to be met in order for an employee to have a basis for a legal complaint. The first criteria is met if actions or words have created a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is an environment in which the targeted employee is made to feel uncomfortable due to intimidating, offensive, or harassing behavior. The targeted employee’s performance often subsequently suffers because a hostile work environment is not conducive to productivity. The second criteria of age harassment is met if there has been a demonstrable change in the targeted employee’s benefits or status as a result of discrimination. Examples of status changes include demotion, firing, or reassignment. Examples of changes to benefits include deductions to base salary, bonuses or vacation time.