What can I do about age discrimination at work?

I have been working at this organization for 10 years. During this period I have been promoted a couple of times. However, it has not been easy sailing. At one time beleaguered and working 16-hour days I asked for additional assistance it was denied. My boss told me, you figure it out by yourself. A couple of years later they hired another manger parallel position to mine. When he made a mistake he explained that it was because he did not have enough resources. The department hired several people who report to him. We have documented that some of these employees now do not have enough work to do in any given week. My co-manager is given plum assignments sent to conferences, etc. while I am not afforded the same opportunities. He is 30 and is described within our organization as a young whippersnapper I am 50. When he started at the organization he had a bachelors degree and only now is earning a masters degree in the school and program from which I graduated several years ago. Many people have spoken to me confidentially about the perceived bias since he not only has fewer credentials but at many meetings has demonstrably less knowledge than myself. To my knowledge, he has rarely, if ever, stayed even one minute past normal working hours. Can I pursue a grievance?

Asked on June 2, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First, what you describes does appear to set out a "prima facie" case for discrimination, or one that appears to have validity on its face. The better assignments, resources, and conference opportunties he gets, despite having less experience, fewer credentials, etc. suggests that age bias may account for the differential treatment.
However, it is possible that they could show that some non-age-related factor is at work, too. For example, if he performs better than you do, or is a better communicator, or simply gets along better with other staff or managers, that could legally account for him being treated better, since employers may treat employees differentially on these bases. They might also be able to show some business reason why his team deserves or needs more resources than you. So while you have stated a prima facie case, do not assume that would mean you win: the employer may be able to refute age bias by showing other grounds for the treatment.
Second, based on what you write, the amount of compensation you might get may not be very high. You have not described any concrete, economically quantifiable loss, like being passed over for promotion or being demoted, or not getting bonuses the other manager gets, etc. There is only limited compensation generally available for things like not getting to go to conferences or not getting the recources of other managers. While technically or legally, an employer can't retaliate against you for brining a complaint to the EEOC or the state equal/civil rights agency, in practice, it's difficult to believe that doing so will not impact our relationship with the company in subtle, difficult to take action about, ways. You therefore may wish consider whether instituting legal action or filing a complaint with a government agency is worthwhile.

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