Can you be discriminated against for being a young worker?

You may know that age discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. At its heart, this just means that employers are not supposed to hire or fire someone based exclusively on their age. This was done, in part, to protect older workers from being phased out of the workplace in favor of younger workers.

But what if you are a younger worker? If discrimination means treating people differently based on their age, wouldn’t that mean that it also applies in your situation? Are you protected from discrimination just like older workers?

Legal protection only applies to those who are 40 and older

It is true that employers are not supposed to discriminate based on age, but this law actually doesn’t work in both directions. It protects those who are 40 and older from being discriminated against, but it says nothing about younger workers. In fact, employers would be within their rights to favor an older worker over someone who was in their teens or 20s.

Part of the reason for this is that age and experience are often tied together. Older workers have more experience, so it makes sense for companies to prefer them. Younger workers have less experience, but they often accept smaller salaries, so the law protects the older workers who may be fired to bring on cheaper employees. This is not intended to make it impossible to hire more experienced workers, so it doesn’t work in the other direction. 

If you are 40 or older and you feel that you have been fired or denied a position based on your age, you may need to know what legal steps to take.