If you are above the age of 45, you may have experienced age discrimination. Age discrimination occurs when a person’s age unfairly becomes a factor in the determination of obtaining a job, getting a promotion, or any other type of job benefits, or is a factor in termination decisions. Age discrimination is a very real practice, with two out of three workers between the ages of 45 and 74 saying they have either experienced age discrimination at work or have observed age discrimination in their workplace.
Job seekers over the age of 35 cite age discrimination as a major obstacle in getting hired, with those who work in high-tech or entertainment industries even more likely to experience age discrimination. These facts may come as a surprise to many, who may believe age discrimination only happens to those who are over the age of 65. Despite the fact that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against those who are over the age of 40, age discrimination is very real. You should be aware of the following information regarding age discrimination:
- Age discrimination is illegal. This means that decisions made on hiring, firing, promotions, and/or raises, which are based even partially on age, are contrary to the ADEA, however only for companies who have at least 20 employees.
- Some states have even stronger protections regarding age discrimination than the ADEA.
- It is not legal for employers to mandate retirement for older workers, except for public safety employees and airline pilots.
- Although prospective employers may currently ask a person’s age, AARP is working to stop this line of questioning. While you can remove your date of birth from your resume, LinkedIn profile or other work-related items, a prospective employer can legally ask for this information.
- In 2009, it became more difficult for those who have experienced age discrimination to prevail in an age discrimination lawsuit. The Supreme Court set a higher burden of proof for those claiming age discrimination, moving the laws against age discrimination backward.
- At least 80 percent of Americans who are over the age of 50 would like to see stronger laws created which would help prevent age discrimination in the workplace.
- Although most people believe age discrimination is not even a possibility prior to the age of 50, others believe age discrimination can begin as early as a person’s late thirties.
- Women are more likely to experience age discrimination, and more likely to believe age discrimination exists than men. About 72 percent of women who were asked whether they think those between the ages of 45 and 74 are subject to age discrimination said “yes,” while only 57 percent of men answered the question affirmatively.
- Those who have experienced age discrimination say not getting hired because of their age is the most common form of age discrimination, while only about 12 percent say they were denied a promotion based on their age, and about 8 percent claim they were either fired or laid off because of their age.
- If you have experienced age discrimination, you can file a claim with the EEOC, or you can work with an attorney to file a lawsuit. If your company has a grievance process, you might consider going through this process first.
- In 2016 the EEOC received 20,857 claims of age discrimination, and, among all the discrimination suits filed, about 20 percent are for age discrimination.
- Regardless of stereotypes concerning older workers, the most engaged workers in the workforce are those over the age of 50. Workers over the age of 50 also bring higher levels of experience and much lower turnover rates than younger workers.
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It is hard to imagine that in some industries, you could be considered “washed up” in your early forties. The “gray ceiling” is a term that describes age discrimination many workers in our society face, however, you do not have to have gray hair to be considered too old to be hired. Despite age discrimination, which exists across many industries, about 18.8 percent of those older than 65 worked full-time in 2016, and by the year 2019, the National Council on Aging estimates that about 40 percent of those over the age of 55 will be working full-time, which will equal about one-fourth of the labor force in the United States.
Not only are some workers considered too old to be a benefit to a company, but employers may also believe older workers simply cost too much when adding up salary, benefits, and pension costs. For those who do not believe age discrimination is a real thing, consider the fact that workers over the age of 45 are unemployed for a significantly longer period of time than younger workers, despite the fact that no relationship has been found between age and job performance.
A Little “Long in the Tooth”?
Liz Ryan, a Forbes contributor, relates an instance in which a headhunter told her that based on her LinkedIn profile, a client said she was a little “long in the tooth.” Ryan says she was shocked and questioned the headhunter about the legality of that assessment. The headhunter replied that so long as the company was not interviewing Ryan, she was not officially a candidate, therefore there was no age discrimination going on. While Ryan did not totally buy into this explanation, she realized how difficult it would be to sue an employer over a comment which was relayed to her by another person.
In fact, failure to-hire cases are notoriously difficult to prove, yet age discrimination abounds. Employers may believe older workers are less nimble than younger employees, or less easy to train. Some may believe older workers are overqualified, therefore could switch jobs should a better opportunity come along. Actually, younger workers are just as likely to move on when a better opportunity arises as older workers. Ryan also noted that the length of a career is readily apparent when a person is honest on their resume’, even when the person does not specifically state his or her date of birth. Many job-seekers end up dropping the first 10-20 years of job experience to avoid being discounted for the position even before they have had a chance to interview for the job.
Ryan’s advice to older workers is to understand what “business pain” they can solve for the company and to discuss that “pain” during the interview. If you can solve a specific business problem for the employer, he or she cannot afford to care about your age. In other words, your specific abilities and skills should always be your focus during a job interview, rather than what a fabulous person you are. Think like a salesperson, and zero in on that “business pain,” and how you can make it go away.
Additional Ways to Circumvent Age Discrimination
There are other ways you can help avoid age discrimination, including the following:
- Limit the experience you list on your resume to 5 years for a high-tech job.
- Limit the experience you list on your resume to 10 years for a technical job.
- Limit the experience you list on your resume to 15 years for a managerial job.
- List the experience on your resume without dates.
- Consider using a functional resume rather than the more traditional chronological resume’.
- Present yourself as a flexible person during an interview.
- Show specific incidences of your skills and successes in the workplace.
- Make sure you talk about the benefits to hiring an older worker—although you do not need to relate these benefits to being older. Some of these benefits include:
- Commitment to your career
- Stable expectations
- Realistic expectations
- Hands-on experience
- A track-record of success
- Higher quality work
- Good listener
- Pride in a job well done
- Better organizational skills
- More efficiency
- Confidence to share ideas and recommendations
- Less likely to get “rattled” when things go wrong
- More likely to be a role model or mentor which makes training new employees less difficult
- Better communication skills
- A better understanding of office politics
- Remember that first impressions matter—for younger and older workers. Make sure the attire you choose for your interview is current as far as style while remaining age-appropriate.
- Bring a portfolio of relevant projects to your meeting which will showcase your experience.
- If your technical skills are not up to par, take a class on the technical skills a new job could require.
- Make sure you discuss age-related perceptions with any of your references, so they can be aware of the issue when offering a recommendation.
- Speak enthusiastically about the future during your interview; what you expect to accomplish during this phase of your career.
- Make it clear you are not ready to retire—this is a fear of many employers who believe they will spend the time and money training you, only to find you are simply biding your time until retirement.
- If you have not interviewed for a job in a while, you may not be aware of how interviews have changed. You may need to provide specific examples of how you have applied your skills in various projects. Be prepared to describe situations in which your skills obtained positive results.
- If you feel an employer is going to consider you overqualified, combat this perception immediately by describing your enthusiasm for specific job duties associated with the work.
- If you have been out of work, do not let this be the “elephant in the room,” rather address it head-on.
- Be clear about the fact that you are perfectly willing to take direction from a younger manager or boss.
- Be flexible regarding salary.
- Project an energetic, positive aura during your interview.
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Women, in Particular, are Subject to Age Discrimination
Older people represent a vast well of creativity and productivity and often have better interpersonal skills and judgment than those younger, less-skilled workers. Despite this, there are as many as a million and a half Americans over the age of 50 who are unable to find work, according to the New York Times. Even though age discrimination is clearly illegal, as many as two-thirds of older job seekers say they have encountered age discrimination. A 2016 study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found strong evidence that age discrimination for women starts early on, and, essentially, never relents. In fact, according to this study, women begin to be passed over for promotions as early as age 32.
Older Americans May Stop Looking for Work Due to Age Discrimination
Because of the many difficulties faced by older Americans regarding age discrimination, many older Americans simply stop looking for work, becoming economically dependent. There is a strong misperception among many that older Americans are a burden to society, however being that “burden,” is most often not by choice. How can older workers remain self-sufficient, when they are forced out of the job market? Even when older people take longer to perform a task, they are much more likely to do so with far fewer mistakes. While older people do take longer to recover from an injury, they are much less likely to hurt themselves, because they are more careful.
More progressive companies are fully aware of the benefits derived from diversity in the workplace, and age discrimination actually hurts business profits and business productivity. So-called age segregation actually impoverishes the U.S. workforce, because it cuts off younger workers from a lively exchange of skills and stories. Many believe a mass movement—similar to the women’s movement—will be required to achieve age diversity and limit age discrimination. If you believe you have been the victim of age discrimination, it is extremely important that you keep excellent notes regarding the discrimination, and that you speak to an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible. Your Ayo and Iken Florida employment attorney will ensure your rights, as well as your future, are properly protected.