Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Although it is illegal and no company would ever openly admit it, age discrimination (or ageism) is all too common in the workforce today (2018). People as early as their mid-30’s have reported ageism in the workplace. Ageism is even more prevalent in the high-tech and entertainment industries, and people are considered “old” when they reach their 40’s. This article will outline recent research into age discrimination in the workplace and discuss how to handle it.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), established in 1967, is a federal law that protects workers and job applicants age 40 and over from age-based discrimination in all aspects of employment for companies with 20 or more employees. According to AARP (2017), two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work, and job seekers over age 35 cite it as a top obstacle to getting hired.
A recent study published by three scholars (David Neumark, Ian Burn, and Patrick Button) for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco entitled “Age Discrimination and the Hiring of Older Workers,” examined more than 40,000 job applicants for 13,000 positions across 11 states. The study revealed that age discrimination still exists and is much worse for older women than older men. The oldest applicants above age 60 experienced the worst age discrimination compared to middle-aged applicants between 49-51; however, both the older and middle-aged women experienced the most age discrimination.
According the Pew Research Center (2016), older Americans aged 65+ are more common and working longer than any time since the turn of the century. Nearly 40% of people ages 55 or older currently working or are actively looking for work. The number of workers, most notably those 65 to 74, is expected to increase the fastest among older workers through the year 2024.
Reuters (2015) reported that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 20,000+ charges of age discrimination in 2014. Legal and employment experts agree that ageism in the workplace is a common phenomenon that will increase with millennials eager to enter the workforce and baby boomers reluctant to leave it.
Dealing With Ageism
Although ageism is prevalent and shows no sign of slowing down, there are a few measures you can take to help combat ageism in the workplace.
- Know Your Rights
Older workers cannot escape ageist stereotypes regardless of how unfair or illegal they may be. Familiarize yourself with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). You can always make your employer know that you are aware of your rights under the ADEA.
- Be Familiar With Technology
Unfortunately, many older people are seen as being unfamiliar with technology along with lacking the ability to change. Remain current with your industry and understand the latest technology that most people use. LinkedIn is a platform today that all professionals are expected to know how to use and understand how to network through it.
- Highlight Your (Tech) Skills
As technology continues to permeate every aspect of the workplace, highlighting that you are familiar with the various technology platforms used in your business will show that you are current. Additionally, ensure you showcase your expertise with various job skills that are necessary to be successful for the job.
- Don’t Include Dates More Than 15 Years Back On Your Resume
You may have been working for more than 30+ years and want to showcase your experience; however, listing that you worked in 1985 will immediately reveal your age to employers before they ever see you. Instead, you can include dates going back 10 to 15 years for your professional experience and list anything before that as “Additional Experience” with no dates or details. Also, leave the dates of your education/certifications off if they are more than 15 years old.
- Find The Right Company
Regardless of ageism, not every company is going to be a good match. Certain company cultures will have a younger environment where you may feel out of place. Start-up companies, especially tech start-ups, notoriously seek out younger employees under 40. You can review the corporate culture before applying using sites such as kununu and Glassdoor.
Age discrimination exists in the workforce today, regardless of how publicly a company denies it and encourages older applicants. It’s a Catch-22 for being an older worker. On one hand, you may have 30+ years of progressive experience and are a notable expert in the industry. On the other hand, you have been working for 30+ years and are clearly over 50, which opens you up for age discrimination.
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