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How to Handle Age Discrimination in the Workplace

About 76% of older workers think their age prevents them from getting a new job. Older workers get released from companies and have trouble earning as much as they once did.

How to Handle Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Age discrimination exists in the workplace, whether you realize it or not. It can have horrible consequences for workers. It can also have unintended consequences for companies that rely on expertise to thrive.

Ageism in the workplace is something that everyone has to fight against, whether you’re a young worker or an older worker.

The more you learn about age discrimination, the more you can do about it. Read on to learn what it is, how to identify it, and what to do about age discrimination in the workplace.

Age Discrimination and Hiring Managers

Hiring managers have certain assumptions and biases around older workers. The first is that they have more financial responsibilities and experience. They’ll demand a higher salary, costing the company more money.

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Hiring managers are keen to let older, more expensive workers go. They replace them with younger workers willing to work for a lower salary.

Another assumption that hiring managers make is that older workers aren’t technologically savvy. That isn’t always true. Most workers nowadays are proficient in technology, especially workers who witnessed the development of the internet.

Most people think that older workers are winding down and ready for retirement. Many of them live for their work and are still excited by it. They often have more enthusiasm and energy than their younger counterparts.

These biases that we hold about older workers prevent everyone in an organization from seeing their true value.

Workers who suffer from age discrimination have a difficult time rebounding from setbacks. For instance, a 55-year-old employee gets let go because they make too much money. It often takes them much longer to find a new job, exceeding a year or more in a good economy.

That means a year or more of not making a retirement contribution. That year delays retirement by a year or more altogether, forcing them to work longer.

If they get let go again, that’s likely going to mean less money in retirement and less financial security.

How to Identify Age Discrimination

Even though those biases are common, they’re not really legal. That’s because of a 1967 law that makes age discrimination illegal.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act gives certain rights to workers over 40 years old. Age can’t be a factor in any employment decision. That includes hiring, firing, promoting, instituting benefits, etc.

Why does age discrimination still exist if there is a law that protects older workers? The law only applies to organizations with 20 or more employees.

About 89% of businesses have less than 20 workers. That means that the law only applies to 11% of all businesses.

Another reason why age discrimination exists is that it’s easy to get away with.

The onus is on the employee to prove age discrimination exists. Unless you can demonstrate someone’s intent to make a decision based on age, you can’t really prove it in court.

What to Do if You See or Experience Age Discrimination

Ageism is usually implied rather than explicit. You’ll have to spot patterns in hiring and other employment practices.

You’re not likely to see an email or hear someone say that they’re not letting you participate in training because of your age.

If you do experience something that explicit, document it.

What patterns should you look for? Are younger workers always hired at the company? That could be an age discrimination issue.

Older workers are looked over for training and development opportunities in favor of younger employees. That’s another pattern to be aware of.

A manager asking an older worker when they plan to retire could influence a hiring or firing decision based on age. If there’s a sudden concern about your ability to do your job, it might be based on age.

Older workers that are disciplined for things that other workers aren’t disciplined for is another pattern to look for.

If you notice these practices, document them as much as possible. If you experience age discrimination, you should reach out to an attorney.

For those who witness age discrimination, you have a responsibility to support the worker as much as possible.

How to Make Your Workplace More Accepting

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It’s up to everyone to make the workplace more tolerable and accepting. It’s not easy to do with so much change in the workplace.

There are five active generations in the workplace, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. Each generation has its own stereotypes and viewpoints.

How can you mix these generations together in one solid team? It’s up to managers to get everyone on board as a team.

The first thing you need to do is to align the workers with a common purpose. The mission and vision of the organization should be strong enough to excite all employees. They need to feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.

Your next step is to actively hire for positions across generations. You can’t specifically say that you’re looking for an older worker, but you can say you’re looking for an experienced worker to fill a position.

Likewise, an entry-level position implies a younger worker with little career experience.

Managers in the organization have to hold team-building activities. These can include projects or games that help break down generational walls.

Fighting Age Discrimination in the Workplace

It seems like our society has so much more tolerance and acceptance than 20 years ago. The unfortunate truth is that we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to age discrimination.

It’s a significant problem for workers. By learning how to identify it and fight it, it is possible to create a better workplace.

Check out the blog for more business tips today!

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