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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Youth at Work

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about age discrimination.

  1. What are some examples of age-based harassment?
  2. Is it illegal for someone forty or older to discriminate against or harass others based on age?
  3. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of age and some other prohibited reason, like race or sex?
  4. Can my employer ask about my age?
  5. Can teens and other workers under the age of forty discriminate against or harass workers who are forty and older?
  6. Can employers assign work based on employees' ages?
  7. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain people who are forty and over, but not others?
  8. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is age discrimination?

What are some examples of age-based harassment?

Age harassment involves unwelcome and offensive conduct in the workplace that is based on a person's age (age 40 or older). The harasser can be a supervisor, a co-worker, or someone who does not work for the employer, such as a client or customer. Age harassment can include age-based jokes or comments, offensive cartoons, drawing, symbols, or gestures, and other verbal and physical conduct based on an individual's age.


Is it illegal for someone forty or older to discriminate against or harass others based on age?

Yes. It is illegal for someone forty or older to discriminate against or harass others who are forty or older. For example, a 42-year-old may not harass a 64-year old about receiving senior citizens' discounts.


Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of age and some other prohibited reason, like race or sex?

Yes. It is illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of the combination of age and some other protected category, like race or sex. For example, if a 30-year-old co-worker of a 50-year-old Native American man constantly referred to him as "Chief" or a "tribal elder," the co-worker may have harassed the man based on age and race.


Can my employer ask about my age?

Federal law does not prohibit employers from asking an applicant's age or date of birth. However, because such questions may discourage older workers from applying for jobs or may otherwise indicate a possible intent to discriminate based on age, employers should ensure that they ask about age only for a lawful purpose.


Can teens and other workers under the age of forty discriminate against or harass workers who are forty and older?

No. While federal law does not protect teen workers from employment discrimination based on age, it is still illegal for teens, and others under age 40, to discriminate against or harass older workers because of their age.


Can employers assign work based on employees' ages?

No. Employers may not assign work based on employees' ages, even if the employer believes the assignments will benefit the workers. For example, a retail store manager cannot assign an older worker to work with only senior citizen shoppers.


Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain people who are forty and over, but not others?

Yes. It is illegal for someone to discriminate or harass a sub-set of a particular forty and older age group. For example, a supervisor may not refer to employees who are fifty and older as the "Centrum Silver crowd."


Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is age discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.