Age Discrimination

As a business attorney Tulsa, I once defended a nurse practitioner in a medical malpractice suit. The facts are not very important for purposes of this piece. The case dealt with a person who died due to an opioid overdose. It was a sad story. The medications he used were complicated and what made matters worse is the physician who truly prescribed them died before the lawsuit was filed. We defended the nurse practitioner. She once met with us to explain the science behind the medicines this man used. My boss, who was older than she, referred to her as, “little lady.” She barely noticed it as it must have been a generational thing. When I prepared our report to our carrier regarding the meeting, I sent a copy to the nurse for her file. She called my boss and said some very nice things about me. One thing she said is that, “That boy suffers from a disease called youth.”

My entire life I have faced “being too young.” I blew right through college as a business attorney Tulsa and law school and became a lawyer at the ripe age of 25 years old. Working in litigation as a 25 year old can be difficult. Most people view you as a kid. What made matters worse for me is that I have a true baby face so I look even younger than I really am. I remember I once got on the phone with an older business attorney Tulsa who constantly referred to me as, “son.” At one point in my career, my secretary was a great-grandma five times over with grandchildren older than me. It was a bit rough.

Ageism is a real thing in the work place. Many make casual remarks to enforce it without realizing it. Legally, an employer cannot discriminate in its hiring/firing practices if a person is over the age of 40. However, at the time this article was written, there were no laws in place to protect younger employees. So what do you do to make sure that a young employee is treated with the same fairness and respect as an elder employee of more experience?

First, try to impress upon all employees that your company is a team and everyone can contribute something. A a business attorney Tulsa, I also play tennis and routinely play doubles. I play a substantial amount of mixed doubles. For those unfamiliar, mixed doubles involves guy/girl combinations. Mixed is a challenge as men and women usually play very differently, but it is also very fun. Many of my female friends complain that men often act like “ballhogs” when they play mixed. From the inside looking in, I tend to agree with their observations. Men do routinely try to hit all the balls and that’s not fun for anybody. As an aside, men who do that seldom win the matches as their opponents quickly become aware of the obvious strategy and redirect their shots accordingly. Do not let any employee be the ballhog. Everyone has a job to do and a role to play.

Second, encourage employees to speak to management against ageist remarks. If someone is consistently making harassing type remarks due to someone’s age, that could very easily expose you to a wrongful termination lawsuit, especially if the person making the remarks is in management. I would include a section in your business attorney Tulsa written employee handbook that expressly forbids age’ism of any kind. This way, the company already starts off on the right foot in the event of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Third, encourage an open dialogue with your employees about any form of harassment, including age’ism. I remember I once went and spoke to my supervisor when I thought some of my co-workers were treating me disrespectfully because of my age. It was frustrating for me as a young business attorney Tulsa out to prove himself when he was constantly referred to as the kid. One employee even remarked that I was a like a puppy as they had to “clean up my messes.” I have not always had the best work environments as an employee. That is one of the many reasons I decided to go out on my own.

If the remarks are becoming more regular and the situation is escalating, I recommend having a private meeting with the person accused of making the remarks and then a separate meeting with the person to whom the remarks are directed. I would tell the person making the remarks that such behavior will not be tolerated and place a reprimand in their employee file. You could then reference back to the business attorney Tulsa written employee handbook section on this issue when issuing your reprimand. Make sure to make a copy for the employee so he/she is aware of what is going on. I would then sit down with the person to whom the remarks are being made and alert them that the employee was reprimanded, management is aware of the situation, and management will continue to monitor the situation for further problems.

Stress to your employees that you are a person with a business to run. You cannot be everywhere at once. Others have to be your eyes and ears as your responsibilities probably often take you off campus for meetings, functions, and the like. Use your employees a resource to weed out harassers to help keep your business away from the court house.

Finally, if someone decides to file some type of complaint with the Better Business Bureau or a similar source, do not panic. Follow whatever response procedures the complaining body issues to you and respond kindly, but firmly. If the employee asks about it, just let them know that it is a legal matter now and your business attorney Tulsa are handling it.

If you are facing any type of harassment issue at your business, do not hesitate to contact the RC Law Group. We as business attorney Tulsa can investigate the matter thoroughly and provide a report to you with predicted exposure along with recommendations for how to resolve any ongoing problems. The last thing you want is a lawsuit, so call today to make sure that does not happen.