Why Does Age Discrimination In The Workplace Happen?

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America has an aging workforce but that doesn't always mean that older workers are given their due or valued for their experience. In fact, many find themselves unfairly shuffled aside in favor of younger, less-experienced replacements.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) specifically bars age discrimination against anyone 40 years of age or older, and some state laws are even broader in their restrictions against ageism. Yet, age discrimination is still a factor that older workers often have to contend with — whether they're simply applying for a job, looking for a promotion, or hoping to hang onto their current positions.

Why Age Discrimination Keeps Happening In The Workplace

There are several reasons that employers sometimes consciously or subconsciously gear employment opportunities toward younger applicants and start shifting older workers out of their positions. They include:

  1. Financial concerns: Salaries generally correspond to experience. Younger employees can be had a cheaper rate and trained quickly — while an experienced employee is generally more costly to hire.
  2. Tech skills: Older workers are typically perceived (fairly or unfairly) as unable to keep pace with cutting-edge technology and the innovations that come along with the internet age. 
  3. Problems with adaptability: Older workers are sometimes perceived as "set in their ways," while younger people may be seen as less rigid and more able to adjust to changing routines.
  4. The appearance of vitality: Sometimes companies want to be seen as "young" and "energetic." They don't want employees with white hair and a few age lines in visible positions.

Even one of these factors can be problematic. Any of them combined can create a really tough situation for any employee or job applicant who is starting to get on in years.

How Can You Spot Signs Of Age Discrimination?

If you're applying for a position from within a company or are putting your resume in a new place, there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) signs of ageist attitudes that you can spot.

Look for phrases in the job description like "recent graduates" and "digital natives." Those are clues that the company isn't looking for anyone older than the Millennial generation. Another sign that a company is trying to limit its application pool on a position to a younger worker is an "experience range." Instead of saying, for example, "2 or more years experience required," the ad may say "2 to 4 years experience required." That's a subtle way of saying that if you have 20 years under your belt in the field that you're "overqualified" and won't be considered.

If you suspect that you were denied a job opportunity or a promotion due to your age, an age discrimination law attorney can help you assess your case and learn more about your options.