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The prevalence of age discrimination in the modern workplace

Federal and California laws shield workers from various forms of discrimination at work. Despite this, discrimination continues to occur. Some of the types of discrimination that receive a lot of public attention include pregnancy discrimination, discrimination based on disability and sexism. While there is less public focus on ageism, it continues to be an issue many employees face in the workplace.

What is age discrimination?

Unfair treatment or denial of employment benefits because an individual is 40 years old or older is age discrimination. This may constitute not hiring, firing, demoting or passing over someone for a raise solely because of his or her age. Employers may force unpleasant duties or unwanted transfers on older workers to try and force them to quit.

How prevalent is age discrimination?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the proponent of the labor force consisting of individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 will shrink by 2030, while that composed of individuals aged 75 and up will grow by 96.5%. Despite the increasing number of older workers, a 2018 study by the American Association of Retired Persons found that around 3 in 5 older employees either witnessed or were subject to age discrimination at work. This number went up by almost 20% in two years, with a similar 2020 AARP study finding that 78% of older employees reported seeing or facing such prejudice.

What causes age discrimination?

Many stereotypes surround aging workers. A major one is that older individuals are less physically and mentally fit to fulfill many roles. Hiring teams may also want younger individuals because they feel that older individuals’ qualifications may be less relevant. There is also a desire to have a certain work culture older people may not fit into, to emphasize technological use and to save money by employing younger people, which can create unconscious bias.

Age discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Workers who experience it have the right to pursue action against the perpetrators.


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