Despite federal laws designed to protect employees from age-related discrimination in the workplace, many employees feel that it is alive and well. A recent study conducted by AARP showed that 64% of employees aged 50 and older think older employees face age-related discrimination in the workplace. Even more troubling is that 90% of these employees felt this discrimination is common.  According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the “Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.” While it does not protect workers under 40, some states have enacted laws to protect younger workers, who can also be victims of age discrimination.  As more people are living longer, healthier lives, age discrimination continues to be a concerning problem in workplaces across the country. Let’s explore some age discrimination examples and how organizations can work to eliminate this type of discrimination within their workplaces.

age discrimination examples
What Does Age Discrimination Look Like?

Age discrimination can take on many appearances, such as insulting remarks about one’s age. However, there are much more serious age discrimination examples that include:

  • Firing older workers to replace them with younger staff. Often companies may decide to let older, more experienced workers go, either firing them or offering them a buyout. As a result, their role is filled with younger (and often less expensive and experienced) labor.
  • Reassigning older workers to unpleasant tasks. Rather than firing older workers, some companies may take an even more underhanded approach and reassign these employees from their typical duties to ones that are much more unpleasant in an attempt to get these workers to quit.
  • Making insulting remarks about an employee’s age. Whether from a peer or supervisor, this type of discriminatory behavior can be awkward and uncomfortable. This could look like a manager asking an older employee when they plan on retiring or a peer teasing the employee about matters related to their age.
  • Passing over older employees for raises. Issues around pay can be tricky–AARP points out that if a younger employee received a raise after a year of exceptional performance, but an older employee didn’t after a moderate performance year, this is not discriminatory. Neither is not receiving a raise if the older worker is at the top of the pay scale. However, if an older employee was passed over for a raise after an exceptional year, this could be a sign of age discrimination.
  • Sharply declining performance reviews. Some older employees may experience this, especially if new management or executives come on board looking to reduce employee costs by replacing experienced employees with less expensive labor. If performance reviews have taken a dramatic turn for the worse, this could be a sign of discrimination–especially because good employees don’t typically begin to underperform so severely.

The problem of age-related discrimination isn’t only felt by older employees. The younger generation of workers is also troubled by misconceptions and hurtful assumptions about their age and experience. In fact, when people were surveyed about their general feelings towards various age groups, younger generations were more likely to be negatively perceived–some of the terms most commonly associated with younger generations include “entitled” and “disrespectful.” Age discrimination examples in this context could appear as superiors telling younger employees they display too much ambition or ignoring helpful suggestions and recommendations made by younger staff.

How Can Organizations Overcome Ageism?

Solving the challenge of age discrimination is not easy, especially when it “seems to be the most socially condoned prejudice.” One of the first places that can begin to tackle this issue is the HR department. Often playing a role and both hiring and firing decisions, the HR department should strive to ensure these decisions are not motivated by age.

The HR department should ensure that updated age discrimination policies are clearly communicated throughout the organization. From new hires to managers and all other employees, all members of an organization should understand what age-related protections are in place and what the repercussions are for violating these policies. Any concerns brought to HR should be taken care of quickly to ensure the issues are resolved and addressed promptly.

HR departments can also seek to facilitate training to ensure employees can spot age discrimination examples and take the necessary steps to report them to HR.  Training can also include how to reduce biases surrounding age in the workplace–both towards older and younger employees.

Another important thing that HR departments should do is to foster an environment that is open to discussion and where people feel like they can be heard. Discussion enables employees affected by age discrimination to share their thoughts on current policies and make suggestions to improve them. In addition, creating an environment where people are heard allows people to speak up when they are the target of discrimination or are around to witness it happening to a colleague.

Still, age-related discrimination takes time to overcome, especially because it requires organizations and employees to erase misconceptions and prejudices that have been perpetuated over decades. Thus, HR needs to take a firm stance against these types of discriminatory actions to make sure workplaces provide equal opportunities to all employees and protect them from mistreatment.

Still, companies can ensure they’re doing everything they can to reduce the risk of age discrimination by relying on an experienced HR outsourcing partner like Corban OneSource. For nearly three decades, we’ve been providing payroll administration, HR administration, and benefits administration services to companies with 75 to 6,000 employees. Our team–completely US-based–understands the nuances of HR compliance in each jurisdiction across the US, providing valuable insight and guidance for companies looking to ensure all HR practices align with current legislation.

In addition, Corban OneSource can help companies create comprehensive HR policies that protect the company from litigation and ensure employee rights are protected as well. Our HR support services can help you control HR costs and streamline operations so that your HR staff can focus on more strategic initiatives.

To learn more about how our experienced team can help your HR department, contact us today.