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Recognizing age discrimination in the workplace

| Jul 27, 2020 | Employment Law |

Over the past two decades, it has become common for Americans to keep working well into their 50s and 60s to support themselves and their families. According to a recent AARP study, the number of workers over age 50 has increased by 80% since 1998, and the number of workers age 65 and over has almost tripled. 

Unfortunately, even though they often have valuable skills and experience on the job, older employees often face discrimination in the workplace. From unfair hiring or promotion practices to wrongful termination, California workers should know that the law protects workers from age-based employer decisions. 

Potential signs of age discrimination

A 2017 AARP study found that 61% of Americans over age 45 said they had seen or experienced age discrimination at work, yet only 3% had reported their experience. Common examples of workplace discrimination that older employees describe include: 

  • Hearing negative or demeaning jokes or comments about their age 
  • Noticing that an employer is hiring only younger workers 
  • Not getting a promotion while younger employees advance 
  • Having their position title eliminated 
  • Being encouraged or forced to retire 

In some cases, speaking with a supervisor about discrimination concerns may be enough to resolve the issue. However, if harassment or unfair practices continue, an employee facing potential age discrimination may want to begin keeping a record of comments and actions that support their claim, including relevant emails and a timeline of events. 

Laws that protect workers over age 40

Age discrimination is illegal under both federal and state labor laws. The U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on age. 

For many older Americans, continuing to work past the traditional age of retirement is a necessity, not a choice. It is important that workers over age 40 know that the law protects them from biased employment decisions that may keep them from earning needed income.