While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people in Tennessee and other states against discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex and national origin, it's the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that offers protection against discrimination due to age. Because of this separation, individuals filing discrimination charges have to determine which type of discrimination applies most to their situation. This is sometimes a difficult choice for older women, nearly two-thirds of whom report having seen or experienced age-related discrimination at work according to an AARP survey.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, less than 5 percent of older women who personally experienced workplace discrimination or witnessed it actually reported it. Hesitation may be due to fear of retaliation or concern about meeting burden of proof requirements. In some instances, it may be possible for an older female employee to put off filing a complaint by directly addressing a co-worker or supervisor about their discriminatory behavior.
With more serious instances where addressing the alleged offender directly is ineffective or not appropriate, the next step for an older woman is to follow the company's internal process for reporting such actions. If the HR department is either non-existent or not helpful, or if an honest attempt at resolving the problem isn't made, the next step is typically filing a charge of discrimination with a government agency. Under the ADEA, workplace age discrimination must be related to pay, hiring or firing, benefits, conditions of employment, layoffs, training practices or promotions.
Most states give older women and other workers in similar situations up to 180 days to file an employment discrimination charge. An attorney may offer advice on whether this is the most appropriate step to take given the circumstances involved although the final decision is up to the employee who experienced discrimination believed to be related to their age and gender. A separate charge may be filed if someone retaliates against an older woman for filing either an internal complaint within the company or an outside complaint with the EEOC.