Older employees often have a skill set that only comes with age and experience. While younger, recent college graduates may boast a degree from a prestigious university, they lack some of the soft skills that many employers appreciate, including work ethic, professionalism, problem solving, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. Unfortunately, despite their qualifications, older workers are facing record-high rates of age discrimination in the workforce. According to a survey from AARP, close to 80 percent of workers in their 50s and 60s have experienced or witnessed age discrimination at work, which is the highest number that AARP has ever seen.
Age discrimination involves treating an employee unfairly or less favorably than another employee due to their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against or harassing employees because of their age. Examples of age discrimination include being asked your age during an interview, being told that you are overqualified, or getting passed over for an interview or promotion because of your age.
There are three main areas where age discrimination occurs, including the following:
- Recruitment and hiring: This occurs when younger applicants are favored over older applicants simply because of their age, even if the older applicant has significantly more experience and on-the-job training.
- On-the-job bias: This type of discrimination occurs when older workers are harassed, do not have the same training opportunities, or are passed over for promotions or rewards because of their age.
- Termination: This occurs when companies target older employees when budget cuts or other circumstances lead to company-wide layoffs. Oftentimes, these older employees are pressured to retire much earlier than they had planned.
Unfortunately, age discrimination occurs in most work environments, including corporate and government jobs to education and health care industries. In fact, an AARP survey revealed the following statistics:
- Close to one in four workers who are 45 years old and older have been subjected to discriminatory comments about their age from co-workers and supervisors.
- Approximately three in five workers and witnessed age discrimination in the workplace or experienced it first-hand.
- Over 75 percent of these older workers say that age discrimination makes it difficult for them to find a new job.
This widespread age discrimination has had a significant impact on older workers’ ability to earn a living and contribute their skills, experience, and knowledge that they have accumulated over the years. For example, nearly 30 percent of households where the main breadwinner is 55 years old or older have no retirement savings or pension. As a result, they will either need to continue working for the foreseeable future or rely on Social Security.
In addition, when older workers no longer feel useful in their job, they are three times more likely to develop a disability, and they are four times more likely to die prematurely compared to older workers who continue to work and feel valued. Unfortunately, too many companies fail to appreciate the depth of knowledge and experience that older workers possess.
What Are the Common Signs of Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
If you are concerned that you are being discriminated against by your employer because of your age, consider contacting an employment lawyer as soon as possible. The following are examples of behaviors or actions that are considered discriminatory:
- Ageist assumptions: Comments that suggest an older worker will not understand a new technology or will not have the energy to work long hours if necessary are considered discriminatory.
- Unfair dealings: Employers should not only offer promotions, training opportunities, and interesting projects to younger workers.
- Social segregation: If there are opportunities to interact with management in a more relaxed, social setting, they should not be limited to younger employees.
- Unfair layoffs: Employers may not terminate a worker due to their age.
Why Does Age Discrimination Continue to Be a Problem in the Workplace?
There are a number of factors that contribute to the ongoing problem of age discrimination in this country. There is no denying the fact that we live in a youth-obsessed world. It is estimated that approximately $53 billion was spent on anti-aging products and services in 2019 alone. Employers are following that trend by replacing seasoned, experienced employees who happen to be in their 50s, 60s, or older with younger, less experienced employees.
Another theory is that older employees are resistant to the rise of technologies. It should come as no surprise that age discrimination is frequent in tech companies.
Another reason why age discrimination continues to be a problem is that the ADEA seemingly never gave cases of age discrimination the degree of attention or legislative respect that it gave cases involving race, gender, or religion. Even if you file an age discrimination claim against your employer and win, the only damages you will be eligible for are lost back pay and attorney fees. You will not receive any financial compensation for pain and suffering. Depending on the circumstances of your case, some lawyers will not take on individual age-bias cases because of the lack of compensatory damages involved.
Another factor that has contributed to the ongoing age discrimination issue is the fact that certain types of discrimination are permitted if it is based on reasonable factors other than age. This is known as disparate impact discrimination, or unintentional discrimination, which is defined an employment policy that appears neutral, but negatively impacts older employees. For example, if all senior vice presidents over a certain age were laid off, the company could avoid a age discrimination claim by arguing that the layoffs were a purely financial decision and had nothing to do with the employees’ ages.
Why Is Age Discrimination Underreported?
Unfortunately, those subjected to age discrimination often feel embarrassed or ashamed, and they do not want to relive the experience by filing a lawsuit. If the employee is at an age where they are close to retirement, the employee may choose to accept a buyout or a retirement package rather than proceed with a discrimination claim. Oftentimes, older workers start to believe that they may not be as sharp or as energetic as they once were, or that a younger employee would be better at the job.
However, the most common reason that workers do not report age discrimination is that they are afraid that they will not be able to provide enough evidence to have a strong case and win the lawsuit. If the employee does not have concrete proof that they were discriminated against by an employer or a co-worker, age discrimination can be difficult to prove. For this reason, it is critical to have a lawyer on your side if you wish to pursue legal action for workplace age discrimination.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Workers Subjected to Age Discrimination
If you have been discriminated against due to your age, you are urged to contact one of our Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. as soon as possible. We will thoroughly review the details of your case, walk you through every step of the claims process, and ensure that your legal rights are protected at all times. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.