Compliance & Legal

Ageism in the Workplace in 2024

While other forms of discrimination get more buzz, ageism in the workplace is prevalent and can cause problems for HR and business owners if not understood.

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It’s nothing new that youth is celebrated in our culture — from scores of beautiful models portrayed in the media to “fountain of youth” product or plastic/aesthetic surgery advertisements everywhere, consumers are constantly inundated with images and messages that prioritize beauty and youth over health. Unfortunately, the same can hold true in the workplace when it comes to hiring and firing practices — youth often reigns supreme over experience, leading to unfortunate practices of ageism. Also, when it comes to equity in the workplace, the media is more apt to cover stories and incidents surrounding gender or racial discrimination, while age discrimination often takes a back seat.

Age discrimination is defined by the EEOC as treating an applicant/employee differently or less favorably due to his/her age. Though it may not get as much publicity, the truth is that ageism is rampant in the job market and workplace. Unbeknownst to many and in contrast to the label of “senior citizen” starting at age 65, ageism can start popping up for workers as early as age 40. In fact, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed in 1967, forbids age discrimination against employees and applicants who are age 40 or older and/or discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

How Does Ageism in the Workplace Really Play Out?

A 2023 study by AARP found that 64% of workers 40 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level since AARP began tracking this question in 2003. Few see the situation getting better. It is unfortunately very common for employers to convey prejudiced attitudes towards older workers. An SHRM study, also from 2023, found that 26% of U.S. workers age 50 and older say they've been the target of age-related remarks in the workplace within just the last six months. 

Age discrimination is perpetuated by negative attitudes surrounding older people’s general awareness, health status, educational background, or overall skill set as compared to their younger counterparts. And, older workers who are female have another strike against them since gender equity in the workplace remains to be a steadfast factor as well.

Age discrimination in the workplace can come into play for candidates and employees in the following ways:

  • HIRING PRACTICES: Many recruiters and HR departments favor younger applicants and may use verbiage that skews to a younger audience or may call for digital skills or job requirements geared towards newer technologies and/or knowledge. Phases like "digital native," "tech savvy," and "high-potential" are common ageist euphemisms in job descriptions, according to Indeed.  
  • ON-THE-JOB TREATMENT: Older workers are often the recipient of harassment or discrimination and frequently get passed up when it comes to professional development and training opportunities or are barred from paths of upward mobility and remain stagnant in their careers.
  • FIRING/LAYOFFS/RETIREMENT: Older workers are often a target when it comes to downsizing, firings or can even be pushed into early retirement, as employers recognize that their tenure with the company will be shorter/more finite and their contributions more limited.

While age discrimination is formally wrong in the eyes of the law, it is a strikingly common occurrence. As an AARP Bulletin reported, “. . .the laws that are supposed to protect workers from ageism are decidedly weaker than laws protecting against other forms of bias.” This translates to less success if a current [or former] employee brings a discrimination suit against his/her company to court. In this case, experience does not always signify wisdom or trump age when it comes to the workplace.

LaborSoft’s innovative technology is one of many integral solutions that keep your business, in business. Our employee relations analytics, case management workflows, and our central repository of documentation streamlines case management to mitigate risk of operational bottlenecks, costly lawsuits, and legal ramifications stemming from HR issues and complaints. This sensitive data requires that maximum security protocols are in place and that your information is protected at all times.

Contact us for a customized demonstration and learn how LaborSoft can help you improve communications, build a more collaborative, safe, and supportive workplace, while reducing the likelihood of costly litigation.

Build a more collaborative, safe, and supportive workplace, while reducing the likelihood of costly litigation. Contact LaborSoft for a customized demo.

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