If you are age 40 or older, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects you from age-based discrimination in the workplace. Despite this federal law, however, workplace ageism remains an all-too-frequent occurrence in the U.S.
Age discrimination expresses itself in a variety of ways, some considerably more subtle than others. AARP – formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons – warns that your company could be awash in ageism if you notice any of the following tell-tale signs.
If other employees openly talk about younger workers in terms of “needed new blood,” “energetic workers,” or something else favorable, but describe older workers in such unfavorable terms as “stodgy,” “set in their ways,” “behind the times,” etc., you can pretty well assume that your company promotes or at least tolerates an ageist atmosphere. The same applies to disparaging comments about the older worker’s perceived difficulties in understanding or dealing with technology, especially social media.
Have you noticed that your company promotes only employees under 40 to higher positions? Are they the only ones who receive opportunities to avail themselves of further training, cross-training, work on important new projects, etc.? Are you and other older employees basically stuck in the jobs you have now? Whatever reasons your employer may give for such discriminatory treatment, consistently rewarding only younger workers while ignoring the older ones amounts to age discrimination.
Discriminatory layoffs and buyout opportunities
Unfortunately, in today’s “new normal” environment, layoffs have become common. Given that employers often must struggle to remain in business, your company may well need to reduce its workforce. Nevertheless, if your employer lays off only older workers or offers only them the opportunity to retire early, this, too, represents a form of age discrimination.