The phrase emblematic of a war of wills between generations, “Ok, Boomer”, has become a popular refrain among millennials and Gen Z’s when they don’t see eye to eye with an older generation. When muttered by a teen or used on social media, the dismissive phrase is often just another example of the push and pull between generations that also includes eye rolling and an occasional Psh. However, when phrases such as “Ok, Boomer” enter the workplace they can smack of age discrimination which is prohibited by law.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) as well as other state law and federal laws prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. At the federal level, the ADEA prohibits employers from discrimination against employees and job applicants who are at least 40 years old, which means that workers are protected at every phase of the employment relationship from the hiring process to promotion or even termination. The ADEA not only guards against employers discriminating against older workers in favor of younger workers but goes further by prohibiting discrimination among older workers, such as favoring a 41 year old over a 51 year old – perhaps in an effort to skirt the law.
At the state level, Iowa law is different in that it prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age for those 18 years and older. Common examples of age discrimination under both federal and state law may include deferential treatment , such as promotions or pay given because of age; being forced into retirement; or even an employer making negative comments about an employee’s age, including phrases such as “ok boomer”, whether ill-intentioned or not.
While many understand that making derogatory or dismissive statements regarding someone’s race, national origin, religion, sex or disabilities – all protected classes – are inappropriate and can land an employer in hot water, age discrimination continues to go largely unchecked and many more age discrimination lawsuits have resulted. If you have been discriminated against or suffered retaliation in your Iowa workplace on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex (including sexual harassment or sexual orientation discrimination), disabilities or age, it is important to seek help from an experience employment discrimination lawyer. Contact the Des Moines age discrimination employment law office of Marc Humphrey at 515-331-3510