Age Discrimination in the Workplace Is Real

Based on national statistics age discrimination in the workplace is on the rise. In fact since 2001 the number of cases reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has risen by approximately thirty-five percent. Since the average age of our population is rising and the age in which someone is protected by the law is only forty or over it means that more and more employees fall into the protected class.

For the most part age discrimination is defined by something adverse occurring to the employee based solely on someone’s age being over forty. As an employer this may seem like something easy to avoid yet more than 23,000 claims were filed through the EEOC last year. These are only the cases that were reported; however, there are many more taking place, but not being reported. In fact in most cases someone being discriminated against simply quits and moves onto the next job.

When we speak of age discrimination in the workplace we are talking about offhanded comments. Age discrimination is usually disguised by management by giving opportunities to younger employees and overlooking older ones. This may seem safe and most management employees will try and pass it off as giving the opportunities to those more deserving. All I can say is you better be sure this is the case or you could fall into the trap of not being fair based on who truly is more qualified.

The other area many employers risk incurring a claim of age discrimination is through the hiring process. They repeatedly hire younger employees regardless of the applicant’s true qualifications. They wrongly believe that they can justify their hiring practices by stating they hired the more qualified employee. They also wrongly belief that no one will ever know. The facts are that if the EEOC gets involved as a result of an applicant filing a claim you will be required to provide all applications/resumes received and they will base their initial response on their review of those.

This can spell trouble for an organization if they have intentionally overlooked qualified applicants that clearly are over forty. Understanding that applications do not state an age it is still obvious to determine the approximate age of someone by looking at their job history, year they graduated from school, or other indicators. If their application provides evidence that they are more qualified than all those you hired you could be in store for a long review by the EEOC.

Whether it seems fair or not age discrimination in the workplace better be taken seriously. Take is just as serious as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, religious discrimination, or any other form of harassment or discrimination. These can all lead to another issue if you are not careful and that is a claim of hostile work environment. A claim of hostile workplace is more related to harassment than discrimination but there is a fine line separating the two.

Thank you and May God bless you!