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Age discrimination is a serious issue for older professionals

When people think of workplace discrimination, age usually isn't the first category they think of. Many of the most famous workplace discrimination cases have involved people facing sexual harassment or racial discrimination from managers or employers. Age discrimination, while relatively common, seems to garner less attention from the media.

Age discrimination can take a number of different forms. In some cases, it could look like an older staff member receiving fewer shifts, leads or hours at work. Other times, age discrimination looks like workplace harassment when co-workers or a manager take joking too far. Constant jokes about gray hairs, poor memory or the need for adult diapers could certainly create a hostile work environment and harm someone's career. Age discrimination is a serious issue with long-term consequences for its victims.

The federal government protects older workers

You may think that discrimination against older workers is a new trend, but it's been an issue for many years. In fact, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 shows that older workers have faced discrimination for decades. This law specifically protects new job applications and existing employees who are 40 years old or older from discrimination based on their age by companies with 20 or more employees. The law also applies to state, federal and local governments, labor unions and employment agencies.

No employer who fits these criteria should ever consider an older employee's age when making decisions about hiring, promotions, raises, assigning shifts, leads, or terminations. Sadly, while the law may be clear, employers still often choose to violate it. Employees who report harassment or mistreatment by co-workers related to their age could get ignored or even face retaliation for reporting the issue. Other times, they could end up laid off or sidelined from a once-lucrative position.

Older workers may have trouble securing good jobs

In many fields, including fields that require years of experience and education, like engineering, it can be hard for older workers to find gainful employment. Intentional or subconscious biases may lead employers to think of younger workers as faster and harder-working, which isn't always the case. For many workers over the age of 40, time has helped hone their skills and knowledge of the field, making them valuable assets for their employers.

Similarly, employers may worry about the increased pressure older workers could place on a health or pension plan. That could mean that well-qualified workers over the age of 40 may experience trouble securing a good job or continuing to grow their careers after a certain age. Even if they have an excellent resume, the interview process conducted by someone half their age could quickly leave them disqualified and moving on.

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