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How To Identify Age Discrimination at Work

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By: Mariah Rogers
Sep 25, 2020 • 7 min read

Are you being “age shamed”?

All throughout our years of education, we are exposed to others within the same age group. We practically grow up with our high school classmates, and then some transition to college where they eat, sleep, and breathe with fellow adolescents. However, once out in the “real world,” applicants are exposed to working in teams with coworkers of all ages and backgrounds. As a result, it is up to the management team to educate and promote a positive work environment despite these differences. Learning to accept a wide variety of ages within the workplace is crucial to the overall success of the company. Here is how to identify and avoid age discrimination, and find out if “age shaming” is happening in your workplace.

age discrimination

What is age discrimination?

With the younger generation now entering the workforce with their passion for tech and efficiency, it is not uncommon to see older employees feeling somewhat intimidated by new hires. Age discrimination occurs when there is a generational divide between employees who can not work productively due to a difference in age. This can lead to a lack of synergy within teams and an overall negative energy being poured into the workplace.

Facing the problem.

The common phrase “out with the old, in with the new” can apply here. Many older employees find themselves facing layoffs and being replaced by a younger new hire, fresh out of school. This is due to the assumption that recent graduates and younger applicants have fresher skills, more innovative ideas, and unique talents that come with young age. This is not necessarily the case, especially since older employees often have a vast amount of experience than more youthful applicants.

Identifying the problem.

Have you noticed in your workplace that certain subordinates/coworkers seem a bit fearful of new hires coming on board? Do you see that younger employees seem to show signs of relief when an older employee is let go? Have you noticed that the hiring team significantly favors younger applicants because they assume they will have excellent technical skills? There are many forms of age discrimination that can occur in a variety of different scenarios. It is easy to see how the examples given above can create turmoil in the workplace and disrupt the otherwise inclusive environment.

age discrimination

Know your rights.

Did you know that you are protected from age discrimination under law? Now, this doesn’t guarantee you will not experience age discrimination, but if it does occur, it is essential to know your rights. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits age discrimination in employment settings. In summary, the act protects workers age 40+ from:

  • Older employees retaining and gaining employment.
  • Age limits, regardless of job performance.
  • Long-term unemployment due to lack of employer acceptance.
  • Age discrimination concerning the free flow of goods in commerce.

That’s right! This act has got your back.

Signs of age discrimination.

Sometimes, it can be tricky to tell if an employer is discriminating due to age or due to the belief that your skills will not match with a specific task, they need to be accomplished. If you feel as though your employer is not treating you equally and giving opportunities to younger employees due to your age, this is a sign of age discrimination. Here are a few more examples to help you further identify issues you may be experiencing:

  • Employers favoriting younger subordinates for new tasks, projects, and trainings.
  • Organizations targeting older employees when layoffs must be made.
  • Younger employees assuming older coworkers are not sufficient at projects that require knowledge of technology.
  • Older employees being deprived of opportunities that are instead being awarded to younger workers.
  • Younger workers showing bias and excluding older coworkers from projects due to stereotyping.

& many, many more.

age discrimination

Next steps.

If you believe you are experiencing age discrimination at work, now is the time to speak up. Schedule a time to talk to your manager or another supervisor who you trust privately to address your issue. Familiarize yourself with your rights before the meeting, and know your facts regarding the seriousness of the situation. Provide concrete examples that are specific to your experiences in the workplace, where you have felt age shamed. Your voice matters, and your story must be heard.

For younger employees.

If you are a younger employee who is reading this, listen up! You can be a great advocate for your fellow coworkers who are experiencing age discrimination. Be an ally and support system for your coworker and help facilitate them in getting the message to management. If you see something, speak up! Identify the problem as it occurs and help promote equality, fairness, and trust within the workplace. This is crucial for all situations that may arise, not just age discrimination.

Be confident in yourself.

Words and actions that negatively impact you can certainly get you down. Experiencing age discrimination is uncomfortable and can seriously hurt your self-esteem, both inside the workplace and out. Know that you are talented, inspiring, valuable, and needed in your place of work. Confidence is always key! 

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