You haven’t been fired due to your age, at least not yet, but you still clearly feel like the odd person out in your workplace. Everyone else is much younger than you, and some of them make sure you know about it.
For instance, some of your coworkers and supervisors will make jokes about your age. This could include asking you about events that happened long before you were born or commenting on how you must not know how to use modern technology.
These jokes are frustrating and you wish they didn’t happen, but are they a form of harassment? Are your rights being violated, and does it matter if those making these comments insist they didn’t mean anything?
Yes, jokes can be harassment, even if others insist they didn’t mean it that way
It is true that age-based jokes can be discriminatory and can contribute to a hostile workplace environment. They are a form of harassment. In fact, the EEOC lists all of the following as potential examples of harassment:
- Age-based comments and jokes
- Offensive gestures
- Offensive symbols, drawings or cartoons
- Verbal and physical conduct
Now, this doesn’t mean that one person who mentions your age a single time is always guilty of harassment. But, if the workplace is somewhere that you do not feel comfortable because they keep making these “jokes” at your expense, that’s unfair to you as a worker. They wouldn’t make those comments about your race or religion, so they shouldn’t make them about your age, either. Be sure you know what legal options you have if this has been happening to you.