Your workplace should be a safe environment where you don’t have to be worried about being treated differently. Yet, workplace discrimination occurs on a daily basis. Regardless of whether you’re an employee who has been discriminated against or an employer who is accused of engaging in discriminatory practices, you need to know the law so that you can represent your interests as fully as possible.

One often misunderstood area of workplace discrimination is age discrimination. Federal law only provides protection for those who are age 40 and older, which means that it’s generally okay to choose an older worker over a younger one, even when age is the basis of that decision. However, any practices that negatively impact those who are 40 or older, even if age-neutral on their face, can be deemed discriminatory. Also, discrimination isn’t just about favoring a younger worker over an older one. In fact, age discrimination can occur when the individuals involved are both over 40.

It’s also important to note that age discrimination can occur at any point in the employment process. If a decision to hire, fire, promote, demote, train, or assign certain duties is based on an individual’s age and he or she is over the age of 40, then that decision is likely in violation of federal employment law. It’s worth noting here that anyone can be the perpetrator of age-based harassment, which can create a hostile work environment and similar legal issues.

There can be a lot at stake in these kinds of cases. Your future work prospects can be diminished, which can leave you with less money than you deserve and perhaps some shame. If you’re an employer, then your business’s reputation may be on the line, not to mention its finances. Therefore, you need to be prepared to aggressively present your position, whether at the negotiation table or in court. Skilled employment law attorneys may be able to assist you with this endeavor.