Here Ten Signs You May Be Facing Age Discrimination

In 1967 the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed to protect employees from discrimination based on age. While this was a very positive step towards protecting workers rights, age discrimination in the workplace still persists across every industry and sector today.

According to AARP, two out of every three older workers have seen age discrimination in the workplace. As reported in a Consumer Affairs article entitled, Age Discrimination Said to be Rampant in New York City, “AARP has sounded the alarm. Older workers in New York City are experiencing age discrimination in the workplace in unprecedented numbers” (according to an AARP survey).

Equally as troubling is the idea of what constitutes “old” among employers, especially employers in Silicon Valley where age discrimination appears magnified. In Silicon Valley, the average workers age is a full ten years younger than the national average. In this technological metropolis, workers over the age of 35 may have a hard time landing a job due to their “old” age.

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing age discrimination in the workplace, you may be right. Here are ten signs that your employer is illegally discriminating against you due to your age.

1. Harassment

If your employer is making fun of you, calling you names, or continually harassing you about your age or about age related matters; it is likely that he/she is trying to get you to quit. It is much easier for a company to have an employee quit than it is to fire them. Especially when the reason for firing, age, is illegal.

2. Pattern of Hiring Only Younger Employees

In Silicon Valley there is a pattern. The majority of employees hired are young. Here are the median ages for each company examined, as reported by Fox, “HP (40); IBM (37); Dell (36); Cisco, Oracle, EMC (35); Texas Instruments (34); Adobe (ADBE), Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT), Micron (33); Amazon (AMZN), Nvidia, Yahoo (32); Apple, Qualcomm (31); eBay, Twitter, Blizzard Entertainment (30); Google, LinkedIn, Salesforce (29); Facebook, Zynga (28); AOL (27).”

If you notice a pattern at your company of only the young being hired, you could be onto something. Many employers will never say it, but they are specifically looking for younger workers, often due to unfounded misconceptions about ability, work pace, knowledge, and sociability.

An employer’s use of the term “overqualified” may be a sign of age discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer to not hire an experienced older person based merely on the assumption that they might become bored or dissatisfied and leave the job.

3. Age Related Remarks

Employers or managers who make age-related remarks or speak to you in a demeaning tone for no reason may be hovering on the line of harassment. While not quite there yet, their behavior still signals a larger issue. As Time reported, “Even those oldest boomers not held back professionally because of age may experience something called micro-aggressions, which are ‘brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative slights and insults to the target person or group,’ according to research out of Columbia University.”

4. Turned Down For a Promotion

If you have been turned down for a promotion that ended up going to a younger worker that was less qualified, you have may have evidence of age discrimination. If you can show a pattern of older workers being looked over for promotions that as a whole typically go to younger workers, with no evidence of the decisions being based on merit, your case for age discrimination will gain a lot of clout.

5. Overlooked for Challenging Work Assignments

One way employers may attempt to force older employees out, is by “lightening the load,” or removing challenging work and projects from their plate. This tactic frustrates and demoralizes the worker while making them look less useful and valuable to the broader organization, perpetuating the myth the older workers are not as knowledgeable and are less capable.

6. Isolated or Left Out

Similar to the previous point, employers or managers may begin to remove you from meetings, leave you out of decisions and may even isolate your desk location away from your department or group, thereby making it more difficult for you to contribute and be a valuable part of the team. Or going a step further they may ask you to work from home or relocate you to a different office all together, possibly to another state or location that would cause a major disruption in your life.

7. Encouraged or Forced to Retire

Oftentimes companies will offer retirement packages to older employees as an incentive to retire. These packages are typically hard to turn down for employees. What’s more, even if an employee turns down a retirement package and the option to retire, there is no saying that the company won’t go ahead and fire them anyway. Similarly, although illegal today, some companies try to enact a mandatory retirement age. Enforcing a mandatory retirement age is only legal in a limited number of specific professions such as law enforcement and firefighting.

8. Layoffs

Layoffs happen at companies of all shapes and sizes. But if your company is only laying off older employees you may be able to prove age discrimination. But because lay offs require legalities, companies are typically smart enough to dilute lay off groups by including a sampling of younger employees in the mix as well.

9. Eliminating Your Position

This is an all too common practice at companies throughout the country. Eliminating a job by changing the job title. If an employer says that your job is being eliminated but then hires a younger employee to work in the same capacity as you only with a different title, this is possible evidence of age discrimination.

10. Employment Improvement Plans

Being put on an employee improvement plan is never a good sign. If you’ve had strong reviews and have no history of poor performance, being suddenly put on an employment improvement plan is a strong sign that your employer is looking for a “legal” way to fire you.

There is no doubt that age discrimination in the United States is a major issue, especially as more and more baby boomers enter their later years and the demographics of the country put a large majority in the over-55 age bracket. Not only is age discrimination wrong but the reasons employers’ practice it are based on unfounded assumptions. In fact, there are often more benefits to hiring older workers than there are drawbacks.If you feel that you are facing age discrimination in the workplace it is important that you retain experienced employment counsel who can help you navigate the law and stand up for your rights.