According to the California Employers Association, an estimated 24% of the workforce will be over the age of 55 by 2024. Federal law prohibits discrimination in employment matters on the basis of age, as does the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Between the laws in place protecting older workers from discrimination and the graying of the workforce, you might think that ageism in the workplace would be rare. However, a study conducted in 2019 suggests that age discrimination is both prevalent and increasing.
Age discrimination can have a negative effect on your morale. You may experience harassment on the basis of your age that creates a hostile work environment. If the situation escalates to an intolerable level, you may decide to leave your job. This can also have a negative effect on your employer, because it increases turnover.
Nearly half of all workers over the age of 40 reported either becoming the subject of age discrimination or knowing someone else who had experienced it, with over one-fifth stating that they faced it themselves. Over a quarter of workers over 40 believed that their age put them at risk of losing their job, and over one-third asserted that their age has affected their ability to obtain a new job.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission believes that uncertainty about filing procedures or fear of retaliation causes underreporting of age discrimination in the workplace. Nevertheless, it reported an increase in claims related to ageism between 2010 and 2018. At the state level, claims of age discrimination represented 11% of all employment complaints submitted to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in 2016. By 2017, complaints of age discrimination had increased to 20% of all employment claims.
Federal law protects all employees 40 and older from workplace discrimination. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, consulting with an employment attorney may be a good first step. They can help you understand your rights and whether you have a strong case.