What Does Age Discrimination Look Like in the Workplace?
State and federal laws bar discrimination in employment and housing with regard to several factors, including faith, race, ethnicity, and age. Unfortunately, age discrimination in the workplace can and does occur regularly, despite laws banning it. Why does ageism run so rampant in the workplace, and how can employees recognize the signs? Consider how this insidious issue affects those in the community.
What Is Age Discrimination?
Simply put, ageism occurs when an employer makes a decision, such as hiring, firing, or denying a promotion on the basis of age. A few reasons exist why this is such a commonplace occurrence right now. Firstly, the Baby Boomers represent one of the largest factions of the workforce but are getting closer to retirement age. Secondly, more sectors of the market seem to prefer younger employees, such as those in tech, consumer electronics, marketing, and more. Additionally, in professions involving lots of contact with the public, employers may discriminate against older workers in favor of younger, more attractive employees. Lastly, older, more experienced workers may command higher salaries or wages than their younger counterparts, which may encourage management to look elsewhere.
Why – and How – Does Age Discrimination Occur?
Unfortunately, many people may not recognize that they’ve been a victim of age discrimination. Employers and managers can use sophisticated means to disguise ageism as something else entirely, particularly something that’s out of their control. Common examples include reduction in the workforce, downsizing, or reorganization that “prompt” an early retirement. By these means, a company might be able to effectively force out an older worker, enjoying the cost savings that come with running an organization with inexperienced employees.
One of the most common reasons why age discrimination occurs is that employers think they can balance the benefits of cost-saving with the potential liabilities of ageism. Older employees might not necessarily catch on to the fact that they’re victims of age discrimination. If they do, employers may still save more by forcing them out. For these reasons, it’s essential for employees to know the signs of ageism in the workplace – and what to do next.
Recognizing the Signs
Ageism may come in many forms, and not all will be immediately apparent to the average employee. Recognizing the warning signs of age discrimination can help older employees protect their civil rights and take action if necessary.
- A company suddenly decides to downsize its employees, particularly older ones, in favor of younger hires. A common expression management might use when offering buyouts or firing older employees is “cultural fit.” What this means, however, is that a company is determined to hire less expensive workers that have the same age and mind set. A company suddenly staffed with younger workers might be a red flag.
- An older worker might face reassignment to unpleasant work duties, often to hasten his or her departure. This can be a clear sign that someone within the company wants an older employee to quit on his or her own, absolving the company of responsibility
- Comments about the employee’s age. One of the biggest red flags is pointed comments about an employee’s pending retirement, even if it seems like a friendly part of conversation. Each employee should make it clear that he or she has no plans to retire. If the comments persist, the older employee should have a coworker listen in so he or she can testify, if it becomes necessary.
Age discrimination in the workplace continues to be a pervasive problem, in spite of federal and state civil rights law. Any employee who suspects age discrimination should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and talk to an employment attorney.
If you believe your employer has violated your rights as an employee in Florida, contact the office of Florin Gray today for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.