Or Has it Already Started?

When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its statistics on the number and types of workplace discrimination cases it handled in 2018, age discrimination was among the top five.

This type of discrimination is typically associated with the Baby Boomer generation. But Gen Xers, born between roughly 1961 and 1981, are already feeling its sting.

Problems in the Tech Industry

Some industries are worse offenders than others. The tech industry is among the worst; according to the Visier Insights Report, the average tech worker is five years younger than the average worker in other industries, and so is the average manager.

Ads for jobs in this industry frequently feature dog-whistle phrases such as “digital native” that specifically exclude older workers without making that exclusion overt.

The reason that phrase is problematic? It refers specifically to people who were raised from childhood in a digital environment, as opposed to “digital immigrants” who came to that environment in adulthood.

It targets Gen Xers for exclusion because many people in this generation experienced an analog childhood and a digital adulthood—making them unique from both Baby Boomers and Millennials. It also makes them, in this discriminatory parlance, “digital immigrants” rather than “natives.”

It Starts at Age 40

Recently, the AARP surveyed 3,900 people aged 45 and older—a demographic that includes Gen Xers—to gauge their experience with age discrimination. They found that 61% of respondents claim they’ve personally seen or experienced this kind of discrimination, and nine in ten see it as common.

The AARP also reports that age discrimination kicks in as early as age 40—on the young end of the Gen X spectrum. In their studies, almost one in three respondents reported:

  • Not being hired for a job because of their age
  • Hearing negative remarks about people their age from a colleague
  • Being passed up for workplace opportunities due to their age
  • Being laid off or fired because of their age
  • Being denied new training opportunities due to age

The survey says that 44% of respondents were asked their birth and graduation dates on job applications—information often used to discriminate against job applicants. These requests can deter older workers from applying for work.

What’s Unlawful Under the ADEA

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination against anyone aged 40 or above due to age. (This includes most Gen Xers; as of this writing, the youngest people in the Gen X category are roughly 38).

That includes treating older workers differently across any aspect of employment—including hiring and firing, pay, job tasks and assignments, layoffs, promotions, benefits, or training.

It’s unlawful to harass someone because of their age, including making offensive comments. While occasional teasing comments are not banned, it’s considered harassment when the comments happen often enough to create a hostile work environment or lead to negative consequences for the victim, such as being fired.

In addition, employment policies that apply to everyone can be considered discriminatory toward older workers if they have an adverse impact on those aged 40 or older, and if there’s no reasonable basis for these policies unrelated to age.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

Do you think you may have been discriminated against due to your age? Even if you aren’t sure, talking to a knowledgeable lawyer can bring clarity to the situation and determine whether you’re entitled to restitution. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com for a free, confidential consultation.