3 Types of Age Discrimination That Are Depressingly Common
And How Employers Get Away With It
According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other state and federal laws, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants because of their age.
However, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), approximately 60% of surveyed older workers claimed to have experienced or witnessed age discrimination in the workplace—and 90% of those respondents said it was a common occurrence.
Even though age discrimination is illegal, employers have been taking increasingly creative measures to avoid complying with the law. Here are three different forms age discrimination can take.
Refusing to Call It “Firing”
Your employer probably won’t come out and tell you that they’re firing you because of your age. But employers do this all the time.
One way they get away with it is by calling your firing a “job elimination.” They’re not actually firing you—just eliminating your job title. But a few weeks later, they’ve reinstated the job under a different title and filled the position with a younger worker.
Layoffs can also serve as a tactic for employers to let older workers go. The law requires employers to release lists of employees who were both laid off and retained, along with their ages, to prove that the layoff decisions were not based on age.
But employers may not list every worker—providing an incomplete picture of their layoff strategy. Or they may fire a few younger workers just to make the optics look better.
Some employers might ask older workers to leave of their own free will, and sweeten the pot with offers for early retirement. These can be very tempting—but be careful, especially if the only alternative you have is to be fired.
If that’s the case, you may be looking at age discrimination.
When a highly qualified older worker is denied a promotion, which is then given to a younger worker with less experience—at a lower pay grade, naturally—it’s usually a fairly clear-cut case of age discrimination.
Age Discrimination in Job Ads
Employers use coded language all the time to discourage older workers from applying.
It’s illegal for employers to explicitly state that they’re looking for workers of a certain age only, or even “young” workers, in a job ad. But most companies won’t come out and say that.
Instead they’ll make other, more indirect statements. One is calling for “digital natives”—which is commonly understood to imply those born in the 1990s or later, who grew up using the Internet and other ubiquitous technology.
Other examples of this might be asking for applicants with no more than a certain number of years of experience.
One particularly insidious practice is microtargeting social-media job ads to workers only within a certain age range. This is a very effective way of pre-screening the audience for certain job ads—by ensuring older workers don’t even see the ads.
It can be difficult to prove age discrimination in court based on the wording of job ads. However, hopefully as more of these cases come to court, the law will update to include such practices.
Facing Age Discrimination? Let’s Talk
If you believe you’ve experienced age discrimination, talk to an experienced employment lawyer in Philadelphia.
We’ll help you make sense of the situation, determine if you have a case, and devise an appropriate strategy.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.