Is Age Discrimination Real?

Is Age Discrimination Real?

Age discrimination is a hot topic with employees and job seekers these days. If you have ever been job hunting after age 40, the chances are you felt some jobs passed you up because of your age. Before believing age discrimination is real based on personal experiences or LinkedIn posts, we offer these perspectives.

Age Discrimination Law

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines Age Discrimination (or Ageism) as the following:

  • “Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age.”

Ageism in the workplace is something that happens to everyone. Many think of Ageism as “something only older employees deal with.” The reason could be only one law exists addressing it. Yet, it applies to a particular age group:

  • “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.”

The young and old problem of ageism

Seniors are living longer, retiring later, and working well into their late-60’s and early 70’s to save money. Advancements in technology and healthcare have made it possible. The average lifespan of Americans has also dramatically increased since 1967. Living longer means retiring at age 65 can result in not working for the next 15 to 20 years! A career in retirement is not appealing to those who enjoy working and saving money.

Consider these interesting stats according to the AARP:

  • 58% of employees believe ageism starts at 50 (not 40).
  • 48% of employees believe it is harder to find a new job after age 40.
  • 92% of employees believe ageism is common and real.
  • Only 15% of employees are uncomfortable with a boss over 70 years-old.
  • Only 5% of employees are uncomfortable with a boss under 30 years-old.
  • Employees under 25 years of age are twice as likely to experience ageism.

Does it happen to everyone?

The above statistics show that most people welcome age diversity. But, at the same time, they claim discrimination happens to everyone. How is it possible for something to happen if no one is doing it? The answer is found in this statistic:

  • Since the 1970’s, studies of employees repeatedly show a person’s age negatively influences advancement, selection, evaluations, and communication skills.

The reality is ageism is the result of a work culture and society conditioned to believe people are incapable of certain tasks due to their age. This fear becomes a reality the more people avoid communicating with those outside of their age group.

Age discrimination is a reality

Unfortunately, discrimination becomes a reality because people fear it is real. Fear breeds conflict, and as a result, companies will see investing in cultural diversity as too costly.

There is good news. Companies are discovering that diverse age groups that work together are more productive. These companies realized that hiring younger workers brings fresh perspectives. Those hiring older workers realized why older workers tend to be more productive, loyal, and offer more “life experience.”

A company that discriminates based on age is saying “No” to experience, new perspectives, and a diverse, productive work culture. Until that changes, everyone will have to deal with discrimination against their age at some point in a career.

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