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Mar 4, 2021

Get Woke: Millennials and Age Discrimination

ABSTRACT: OMG. Some Millennials are now protected under the ADEA and state age discrimination laws. Learn what this all means for Millennials and employers in the workplace. Unless, of course, you want to be basic.

Mmmk. Imma spill some tea. Some Millennials are now protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA), Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), and other state laws. Millennials – who are defined as individuals born between 1981 and 1996 – are just beginning to turn 40 years old this year (I’m looking at you, Paris Hilton). Yes – you heard me right. This means some (but not all) Millennials now have standing to sue employers for age discrimination. It’s offish.

So what does this mean? The ADEA, IHRA, and MHRA prohibit discrimination against employees who are 40 years old or older in any aspect of employment. Similarly, it is unlawful for an employer to harass an employee because of the worker’s age, if 40 or older. Such harassment can include derogatory or offensive remarks regarding an individual’s age to the point where such comments are so frequent and severe that they create a hostile work environment.

Millennials account for a majority of the workforce. Majority status notwithstanding, Millennial bashing is definitely a thing. Employers have continually expressed frustration with Millennial employees, believing (rightly or wrongful) that Millennials have a sense of entitlement, need to be spoon-fed, are glued to TikTok, and lack loyalty. Many older employees perceive Millennials as lazy, in part due to many Millennials’ preference for texting and emailing over making phone calls. Some commentators have even suggested that there is a generational war between Millennials and “Boomers.” It should come as no surprise, then, that in a 2019 survey conducted by Glassdoor on diversity and inclusion, 52% of the Millennials surveyed indicated that they had experienced or witnessed age discrimination in their careers. 

Although many Millennials may claim to experience age discrimination in the workplace, employers are allowed to favor older workers over younger workers, even if both employees are over the age of 40. For Millennials who are just turning 40, this means that an employer can favor a “Boomer” over you. Some Millennials may perceive such favoritism as discrimination against them because the Millennials are just that – Millennials…not because the older employee has seniority or is a more experienced employee. Because of the seemingly strong divide between the perceived mindsets of “Boomers” and Millennials, as well as the growing trend of additional employee protections in the workplace, it is possible that a greater push will be made for protections against favoritism against “older employees” over Millennials covered under the ADEA, IHRA, and MHRA. In addition, Millennials protected under the ADEA and state anti-discrimination and harassment laws may argue that they are harassed at work for being Millennials, which implies that the Millennials are being harassed on account of their age. All of this, however, is obv TBD.

BTW Millennials, using the word “Boomer” is throwing shade on an entire generation that is older than you (and who are, therefore, a protected class under federal and state age discrimination laws). Dropping the word “Boomer” is also kinda, sorta, obvs discriminatory. So stay tuned for my next blog on “Boomer” discrimination and harassment…MTF…