Do You Have a Case?

A Guide to Employment Discrimination: Age

Why do you believe the discrimination happened because of your Age?

  1. Do you know someone significantly younger or older who was treated better than you in the same situation? (For example, if you were discharged or disciplined for a certain behavior, were others not discharged or disciplined, even though they engaged in the same behavior?
  2. Were derogatory comments made about your age when the discrimination took place?
  3. Has your employer treated other coworkers who are close to your age "badly," in comparison to other workers in comparable situations? Can you cite specific examples?

NO, none of these sounds like my situation.

YES, at least one of these fits my situation.


Are people of all ages protected from age discrimination, even younger people?

All workers who have reached the age of majority are protected by the Minnesota Human Rights Act's prohibition on employment discrimination because of age. This is broader coverage than the federal law, which protects only workers age 40 and over from age discrimination.

In making employment decisions, employers sometimes consider whether the person is "mature" enough to do the job well, or has the necessary experience. But not hiring or promoting someone who is "immature" or inexperienced isn't age discrimination if the employer is legitimately concerned about the person’s behavior or skill level. On the other hand, rejecting an applicant who is “overqualified” may be age discrimination in certain circumstances.

Note that age isn’t included in the protected classes for public accommodations or public services, and protection begins at age 25 in education. Age isn't included in housing and real property matters, but there are provisions that apply to familial status and housing for "elderly persons."

Can an employee be forced to retire at a particular age?

It is generally illegal to require an employee to retire at any particular age, as long as he or she can still do the job. But there may be exceptions for airline pilots, judges, peace officers, correctional officers, and some other professions, and sometimes an employer can offer different benefits to employees age 59 and older or if permitted by other laws.

The Human Rights Act also prohibits "interference with pension rights," which means that an employee can't be terminated just because they are about to become vested in their pension plan. But employees nearing vesting or retirement can be terminated for other, unrelated reasons.

Why are these questions (about the reason for the discrimination) important?

The state Human Rights Act doesn't protect against unfair treatment that happened to a member of a protected class (such as a person of a certain race or sex) — unless that treatment happened BECAUSE the person was a member of that protected class.

One way to help prove that the treatment happened because you are a member of a protected class is to show that other people who were of a different class (such as a different race or sex) weren't subjected to the same treatment.

But I know what happened and why... can't you take my word for it?

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is a neutral investigative agency. It's our job to impartially investigate charges of discrimination, and determine whether there is "probable cause" to believe that the events a charging party alleges happened — and that they happened because of the charging party's protected class status.

Like any investigative agency, we look for evidence. The more specific information you can give us — including the names of witnesses — the better we can investigate your charge.