Discrimination against employees over the age of 40 has been unlawful since the passage of the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Unfortunately, many employees still encounter age-based discriminatory behavior and harassment in the workplace.
Knowing the signs of age discrimination can help people notice and protect themselves against the unfair treatment of older workers.
Types of age-based discrimination
Workplace discrimination can come in many forms, from offensive comments to lack of opportunities. Employers may try to push someone into retirement before they are ready. In other cases, companies eliminate and rename positions to justify letting go of an experienced employee.
Age discrimination can involve fewer challenging projects or opportunities for promotions that help employees advance. Also, an experienced worker could encounter unjustified discipline or poor performance reviews. Finally, a workplace can discriminate against older professionals by only hiring young people.
Prevalence of discriminatory behavior
In a survey of working people aged 45 and older, 61% of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed age-based discrimination in the workplace. The most common forms of unfair treatment included denial of a promotion or new job and losing a current position. Older workers may also need to spend more time job searching than their younger counterparts. In some industries, such as technology and hospitality, age discrimination may be more prevalent due to the lower average age of the workforce in those fields.
Older people bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and soft skills to the workplace. Although unfair treatment of workers over 40 remains a problem, there are laws that protect employees from age-based discrimination.