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New York Age Discrimination Attorneys and Resources


Age discrimination means treating a job applicant or an employee less favorably because of that person’s age. While federal laws only apply to workers over the age of 40, New York state and city laws protect all workers from age discrimination.

Age discrimination is a serious offense. New Yorkers are protected from age discrimination by employers under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (CHRL).


Know Your Rights

It is illegal for an employer to make employment decisions based on your age.

Employers cannot make employment decisions based on your age instead of your skills or how well you do your job. This includes decisions about hiring, firing, discipline, distribution of benefits, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other condition of employment.

Young people can also be the victims of age discrimination.

While the federal ADEA only applies to workers over the age of 40, New York state and city laws apply to workers of all ages. Age discrimination can occur even if the perpetrator is over 40 or the same age as the victim.  

If you have been the victim of illegal age discrimination, you have protections under federal, state, and New York City laws.

Examples of Age Discrimination

Age-Based Employment Decisions

Making employment decisions, like hiring and firing, based on age violates the law.

Examples:

  • You apply for a job for which you have experience and excellent qualifications. The hiring committee chooses a much younger candidate because they believe he will be more committed to a full-time position because of his age.
  • Your employer tells you that it is laying off you and several coworkers of a similar age due to company cutbacks and reorganization, while younger employees get to keep their jobs.
  • You have several years of experience working in your current job as a receptionist, but your employer fires you because your boss says you look too old or sound old on the telephone.

Discriminatory Promotion Decisions

Laws against age discrimination also protect employees from not receiving promotions, including tenure.

Examples:

  • After several years at the same company, you receive exemplary reviews and an employee-of-the-year award. Yet every time you apply for a promotion, the position is filled by an older employee with similar qualifications. When you complain, your boss says you look too young to be a manager.
  • You have worked as a low-level manager at a company for years and have had excellent performance reviews. Your responsibilities have increased over time, but your job classification and salary do not reflect this. Your boss says that the company does not want to invest in you because you’re too close to retirement age.
  • You are a teacher on a three-year tenure track with excellent performance evaluations. But your boss questions whether you can put in the necessary hours at work. He points out that you are significantly older than the other teachers up for tenure. As a result, you are denied tenure.

Policies With Discriminatory Effects

Unintentional age discrimination can also be illegal.

Job policies that appear neutral can be discriminatory. For this reason, policies cannot disproportionately harm workers based on age, unless the policy is job related.  

For example, a company cannot require that all prospective employees undergo a physical fitness test before being hired if being physically fit has nothing to do with the company’s business. The requirement must relate to carrying out the job.

However, employers can require a minimum level of experience for any position, as long as it is not tied to a specific age.

Age discrimination can occur regardless of the age of the victim or the perpetrator.

Hostile Work Environments Violate the Law

You can be the victim of age discrimination even when no employment decision is involved, because age-based harassment can create a hostile work environment.

 Jokes, slurs, or offensive or derogatory remarks about people of a certain age can create a hostile work environment. Under state and city law, anyone over the age of 18 can be subject to age-based harassment. Federal law only applies to workers over the age of 40.

Hostile Conduct Must Be More than Trivial or Petty

New York City has a generous standard for a hostile work environment, which is defined as being treated less well than others because of your age as long as the poor treatment amounts to more than a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience.” Federal and state law require that the conduct be either severe or pervasive.

It is important to speak up when you witness offensive conduct to make it clear that such comments are unacceptable and unwelcome.

Victims Do Not Have To Be The Targets

It is a misconception that only the target of hostile comments can be the victim of a hostile work environment. You can be a victim even if you are not the person being targeted by the offensive behavior––and even if you are not a member of the targeted age.

If the offensive behavior is affecting your ability to do your job, you may have a claim.

The Offender Does Not Have To Be Your Boss

It is a misconception that only your boss can create a hostile work environment. Employers have a responsibility to prevent age discrimination. A co-worker, a supervisor in another area of the company, or even a non-employee, like a vendor, can be the perpetrator.

What To Do If You Are The Victim of Discrimination

Discrimination can happen in any workplace. If you think you are the victim of discrimination or a hostile work environment, there are several steps you can take right away. It is important to make it clear that the behavior is unwelcome and keep records to prove that you did.

  • Start keeping notes of the discriminatory practices and/or harassment. Be specific in your details—write down the time and place of each incident, what was said and done, and who witnessed the actions.
  • Keep doing a good job. Make copies of your job evaluations and any letters or memos that show that you are doing a good job at work.
  • Seek support from friends and family, clergy, and, if helpful, a mental health professional. Harassment at work can be very stressful, and it is a difficult thing to face alone.
  • Report the incident in writing to your supervisor and human resources department. Tell them about the behavior and the steps you have taken to address it.
  • Check your company’s employee handbook. If your employer has a harassment policy in place, follow it.
  • Preserve any information such as inappropriate texts, pictures, or voicemails sent to you.
  • Put all of your complaints in writing, and keep copies at home.

Retaliation is Illegal

If you complain about age discrimination, it is illegal for your employer to take any action against you.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against applicants or employees who complain about discrimination on the job, file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or any state or city agency, or participate––including being a witness––in an employment discrimination proceeding, such as an investigation or lawsuit.

You Are Protected From Retaliation Even If There Was No Discrimination

As long as you had a good faith and reasonable belief that discrimination or harassment occurred, your employer is barred from taking any action against you for speaking out or participating in any investigation or proceeding. It does not matter if an agency or court determines that there was no discrimination.

If you speak out about discrimination and harassment in your workplace, the law protects you from retaliation.

How to File a Claim For Age Discrimination

If you choose to file a claim for age discrimination, there are a number of options available. You can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which handles violations of federal law, or the New York State Division of Human Rights, which handles NYSHRL violations, or the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which is responsible for CHRL violations.

If your claim falls under multiple laws, the three agencies that handle discrimination claims have what is called a “work-sharing agreement.” This means they cooperate with each other to process your claims. There is no need to file a claim with each agency. You just need to indicate that you want your claim “cross-filed” with the other agencies.

Learn how to file a discrimination claim, how to file an EEOC complaint, or contact a New York discrimination lawyer for help.

Comparing Age Discrimination Laws

ADEA NYSHRL CHRL
Covers United States Covers New York state Covers New York City
Applies to companies with at least 20 employees, including employment agencies, labor organizations with at least 25 members, and federal, state, and local governments. Does not apply to independent contractors. Applies to companies with more than 4 employees, including state and local governments and domestic workers. Applies to companies with more than 4 employees, including municipal employers and unpaid interns, as well as independent contractors under certain conditions.
Must first file a complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the incident.

However, if the charge is also covered by state or city laws, the filing deadline is extended to 300 days.

You cannot file an ADEA claim in federal court without first filing with the EEOC.

Have a choice between filing your NYSHRL claim in state court or with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

If you decide to file a claim with the agency, you must do so within one year of the incident, or within 240 days, if your claim includes a Title VII claim.

You have 3 years from the date of the incident to file your claim in state court.

Have a choice between filing your CHRL claim in state court or with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

If you decide to file a claim with the agency, you must do so within one year of the incident, or within 240 days, if your claim includes a Title VII claim.

You have 3 years from the date of the incident to file your claim in state court.

Reprimands and negative performance evaluations only covered if accompanied by a reduction in pay or demotion. Reprimands and negative performance evaluations only covered if accompanied by a reduction in pay or demotion. Performance evaluations and discipline decisions are covered by the law, even without reduction in pay or demotion.
Hostile work environment requires severe and pervasive harassment. Hostile work environment requires severe or pervasive harassment. The standard for harassment is lower. It is defined as more than a “petty slight” or “trivial inconvenience.”

Legal Remedies for Age Discrimination

Victims of age discrimination can recover damages, back pay, and fines from their employer. Contact a New York discrimination lawyer to pursue your legal remedies.

  • Back Pay: Back pay is the wages, bonuses, and benefits that workers lost because of discrimination. The courts can award back pay based on what you would have earned without the discrimination. 
  • Reinstatement: Courts can order your employer to rehire you or give you a promotion that you were denied because of age discrimination. 
  • Front Pay: Front pay compensates employees for lost wages and other money because of age discrimination. You can receive front pay equal to how much money you need to return to your position before the age discrimination.
  • Compensatory Damages: Victims of discrimination receive compensatory damages based on their lost wages, the cost of finding a new job, and emotional pain and suffering. These are out-of-pocket expenses caused by the age discrimination.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages punish the employer for not stopping the discrimination. New York City’s law includes punitive damages for employers who were negligent, reckless, or consciously disregarded your rights. 
  • Liquidated Damages: Rather than providing compensatory or punitive damages, the ADEA includes liquidated damages. This is a monetary penalty equal to the amount of back pay owed.
  • Attorneys’ Fees and Costs: If you successfully bring an age discrimination suit, the court can order your employer to cover your attorney fees and any court costs.

Potential Damages Under Different Age Discrimination Laws

ADEA NYSHRL CHRL
Compensatory Damages No Yes

Unlimited

Yes

Unlimited

Punitive

Damages

No No Yes

Unlimited

Back Pay Yes

Determined by the court.

Yes

Determined by the jury.

Yes

Determined by the jury.

Reinstatement Yes Yes Yes
Front Pay Yes

Determined by the court.

Yes

Determined by the jury.

Yes

Determined by the jury.

Liquidated

Damages

Yes

Equal to the amount of back pay awarded.

No No
Attorney Fees Yes No Yes
Can You Bring Suit Against An Individual Supervisor No Yes Yes
Prejudgment Interest Yes Yes Yes
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