Discrimination in the workplace causes a hostile working environment for everyone. There’s just no getting around that fact. With Baby Boomers retiring at a record pace right now and younger boomers reaching the age of 50, ageism in the professional environment is increasing at record levels as well.
20% of all workers in the United States right now are above the age of 55. That accounts for 33 million workers in total.
Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Age discrimination can take many forms. Someone who has consistently solid performance reviews will suddenly find that they can’t seem to do anything right. Meeting invitations are no longer offered when they once work. Quotas or demands for work become unreasonable. Age discrimination is forcing older workers out of jobs. The law protects workers above the age of 40 from personnel decisions that are based only on age, but it is up to the worker to be able to prove that ageism exists in the workplace.
- In 2013, more than 21,000 complaints for age discrimination were filed before the EEOC. In 1997, there were just over 15,000 complaints filed.
- 64%. That’s the percentage of workers who say that they have either seen or experience some form of age discrimination in the workplace.
- 58% of American workers believe that age discrimination typically begins when workers reach their 50s.
- On average, it takes someone age 55 or over three months longer to find a job than a younger person.
- 1 in 3 older workers has either experienced discrimination or seen it happen first-hand since 2008.
- Only 29% of older workers that are close to retirement say that they either have enough to retire or are very close to having enough.
- The percentage of older workers who say that they plan to work for several more years so they can retire in a comfortable manner: 29%.
- 16% of retirees say that they may have to return to work because they can’t make ends meet with their retirement.
It seems like a pretty logical decision to hire a younger worker over an older worker when education levels are equal. After all, the younger worker will likely stick around longer and provide more of an economic impact for the business. The only problem with this decision is that in the United States, it is 100% illegal. Age cannot be considered as the foundation of a hiring decision. Physical health might be part of the issue or there might be other underlying features in some job descriptions, but overall, anything related to age is ageism and that has been banned from the American workplace. Despite this fact, complaints are still continuing to rise. Baby Boomers already feel vulnerable. Age discrimination just worsens the situation.
What Are The Signs of Age Discrimination?
- Biased comments that are specifically directed to an employee about their age, such as being told an employer wants a younger image, are the most common symptom of age discrimination.
- Younger employees are often treated differently than older employees when age discrimination is taking place.
- Older employees may be disciplined for actions that younger employees can do without consequence.
- Promotions that go to younger workers, despite the older worker being more qualified, is also a symptom of age discrimination.
- If managers are only socializing with younger employees and giving them the choice assignments most or all of the time, then age discrimination is likely present.
- An older boss can still discriminate against older workers and if this boss is making an older worker feel uncomfortable, it could even be considered harassment.
Age discrimination is not something that you just have to “put up with” in the modern workplace. It is something that makes everyone uncomfortable, whether they realize it or not. Younger workers might turn a blind eye to ageism when they see it, but they’ll also know that if they reach a certain age, they’ll experience the same thing. Ageism doesn’t have to just stop at 40 either as time moves on either. A company striving for a younger image could suddenly start taking these same actions as described above to workers in the 30-39 age demographic. The simple truth is this: if you see age discrimination happening, then report it. That is the best way to protect yourself and a co-worker who may be the target of ageism.
Age Discrimination Can Be Costly
- Since the age discrimination laws were passed in 1967, more than $91 million has been recovered from employers for victims of ageism.
- 23% of all EEOC complaints that are made in the United States include a charge that is specifically covered by age discrimination laws.
- 64%. That’s the percentage of age discrimination charges that contain a discharge.
- The percentage of EEOC charges of age discrimination that are found to be of merit: 14.8%.
- 58% of executives report that their organizations under-prepared to be ‘providing programs for younger, older, and multi-generation workforces.
- 75% of non-self-employed older workers report that they are treated no differently based on their age. 7% of older workers say that they are actually treated better once they reach an age milestone.
- The percentage of older workers who say that they would likely have to take a pay cut if they lost their job today and had to find a new one: 37%.
- 20% of American adults aged 40 or above say that they haven’t gotten at least 1 job specifically because of their age.
- 69% of adults age 50 years and older who have searched for a job in the last five years say they have experienced a lack of available jobs.
- Only 32% of companies feel that they have made more progress in promoting age diversity than in other diversity and inclusion efforts.
Age discrimination is going to continue as the population continues to grow older. By 2050, older workers are going to be in the workforce at record levels and each year until then, new record levels are expected to be set. Until each employer addresses this problem and loopholes in legislation are fixed so that no one can discriminate, ageism is going to be an ever-present threat and could make it nearly impossible for older workers to retire.