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Age Discrimination in Job Search and the Workplace

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Have you experienced age discrimination? Laurie McCann is a Senior Attorney with AARP Foundation Litigation where her principal responsibilities include litigation and amicus curiae (impartial advisor) participation for AARP on a broad range of age discrimination and other employment issues.

 

Ask AARP Expert Laurie your questions about age discrimination, and share your experience.

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Bronze Conversationalist

@anshb2662a8 You have a great attitude and people will appreciate the fact that someone like you, who has been the target of both age and race discrimination, is on their side.
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Bronze Conversationalist

To turn a negative into a positive, I've experienced "reverse age discrimination" if there's such a thing, and if there isn't, then it's just been created.

 

I attend a coloring club at the local library which is popular with women of all ages.  Men are welcome, but every time a man has come into the room and heard all the gabbing and laughing, he has hastily turned around and left, followed by the laughter of all the women.

 

Once we were discussing the variety of ages in the club.  Since it's for adults only, the youngest is about 20 years old.  However, when we were calling off our ages, we older women got a lot of attention.  There is one woman who is 3 months older than I am, and when we mention age, she proudly says "I'm older".   Now, when someone new comes into the club and asks about ages, we older women (there are four of us over 70 years old) are in the spotlight.  The other women point to us and say "they're up in their 70s", like we're celebrieties.  When the group wants to know about something in the past, or how to do something, they figure that we older women know the answer, and one of us usually does since we've been around longer than they have. So, if there's such a thing as reverse age discrimination, I'm glad I'm part of the receiving end of it!

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AARP Expert

@ip3285, Thanks for sharing your story and I'm glad to hear you're getting the respect you deserve! In the employment context, under federal law, claims of reverse discrimination are not recognized. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to individuals age 40 and over and a Supreme Court case (General Dynamics v. Cline) held that even within the ADEA's protected class, claims of reverse discrimination cannot be brought. So, for example 50 year olds do not have a claim under the ADEA if an employer offers more favorable benefits to 60 year olds.  However, many state laws prohibit age discrimination at any age - i.e, with no minimum floor, and under those laws, claims of reverse age discrimination may be brought.

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Periodic Contributor

I have experienced age discrimination from AARP. A year or so ago I tried to enter a contest to win a new house through AARPs dream house contest. I was notified that I did not qualify because of my age.  I was shocked since AARP is reportedly an advocate for older people.  This year I am allowed to enter???

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Super Contributor

I've seen age discimination in employment with my sister.  She's in her late 60s now and has been looking for a job for almost 2 years.  She has applied to anywhere between 30 to 50 jobs and month and heard absolutely nothing from any of them.  The problem is that now with the online applications it is just easier to get away with age discrimination.

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Conversationalist

@LogicsHere

Even though age discrimination is rampent that doesn't sound like that is your sister's problem. 

 

Her resume isn't working.  She never got far enough to get discriminated against.  See my long winded responce for a pea for help.  Last century all your resume needed to do was list what you did.  If you do that now you will never get anywhere. The rules have changed.  If you want to find a job in the 21st century you need to play with 21st century rules. Otherwise you are just waisting your time. 

 

  A compenent resume will not give away your age.  Oh they may be able to guess she is over 50 but she shouldn't give away she is over 60.  That is a dead giveaway that the person isn't smart enough to work for them.   why should anyone think about hiring any one like that?

 

See my lenghty reply way above if you whhant to know what I think she ought to do.

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AARP Expert

@LogicsHere, I wish I could disagree with you but I can't. Unfortunately, it is much easier for employers to screen out older workers in the online application process especially when they require applicants to provide dates of graduation and even dates of birth. These practices also deter older individuals from applying, as many will wonder why they should bother trying when their age will be obvious to the employer. In our testimony to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) earlier this year, we urged the agency to make age-related inquiries and specifications whether online, on paper applications, or in person, be presumptively unlawful. Thank you for joining the conversation and good luck to your sister in her job search.

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Contributor

Other than getting a lot of discounts, no.

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Contributor

You have to wonder what all these people who commit age discrimination will think about one day when they themselves hit the big "4-0", "5-0", or "6-0".  Will they regret having turned us away?  Will they wonder what devastation they caused with their limited outlook? I try to console myself by thinking they will someday.  But then I realize, anyone who continues to celebrate birthdays each year but doesn't recognize they themselves are getting closer to 40, 50, and 60, too, and that someday they will be treated with the same disdain, isn't worth anymore of my thought. 

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AARP Expert

@m624509f, thank you for sharing your awful story.  It's hard to believe these sort of things actually happen but I know that they do and your experience is a reminder of how much work remains to be done.  I applaud you for your perseverance in successfully fighting for your unemployment benefits. Yes, age discrimination claims can be very expensive - both monetarily and emotionally.  That's one reason why AARP believes age discrimination is far more prevalent than the charges and litigation statistics would suggest.  All too often, individuals, make the difficult decision to forego challenging discriminatory actions to focus their energy and resources on finding a new job and paying their living expenses.  For that reason, AARP will continue its advocacy on this important issue. We appreciate your sharing your unfortunate experience and wish you luck going forward.

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Newbie

I have eperienced all the above comments on why the above people feel they were discriminated.  I felt really bad and hurt when I realized what was going on to give the new Part Owner reason to fier me.  For two weeks strange things were happening to make me look bad at my job performence and the ability to do my job.  I realized I was being "Sabatoshed".  I comfronted my friend, the accountent, at first he could not face me if it was true.  After telling him I felt like I was going crazy with all these things happening to make me look bad  he turned around and looked at me and said I was not crazy or doing my job bad, I was being sabatoshed.  I asked why and he said he was not told why.  I did something that might help others if ever in this situation.  I started makeing copies of my work, taking pictures, documenting time, dates, and who I felt was responsible for doing these things.  Then when my boss, (the new part owner) called me into his office I took my proof with me.  Yep! He fired me.  When I confronted him, (being careful not to point fingers at anyone) he would not admitted to it, but his face got red, he could not look me in the eye, moved around in his chair.  Then he said to me and I quote, "do you know how much everybody's health ins. went because of your accident's medical bills?  You have cost us a fortune,"  Unquote.   There it was, the reason why.  I asked when was suppose leave, and he said to pack up my personal items now and leave and he will mail me my check.  I said to him I felt sad that all he cared about was money.  I packed up and left.  I should have seen an attorney, but I did not have the money for one.  There is more to this story but it is to long.  May the Dear Lord be with anyone that has to go thru this and the above issues with these kind of employers. 

 

 

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AARP Expert

@d566856g, you are right to advise people to document everything when they believe they are being treated unfairly. Doing so is very important and can be very helpful when filing an internal complaint or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I was very sorry to learn your employer terminated you because of health care costs.  AARP Foundation Litigation carefully monitors - and is litigating a case in which it is an issue - cases where employer target older workers on the assumption that they make the employer's health insurance costs higher. Thank you for sharing your story and best wishes as you move forward.

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Contributor

I agree!  I cannot believe the stupid, inappropriate and illegal questions and remarks by the interviewers. I too am looking to supplement my social security, and just need a secretarial or accounting job.  I already had a career.  Just had an employer call me back on a job for whichI had sent over my resume.  Questions asked, Am I married, when I said no, he asked if I ever was, I said divorced and then he asked if he is still up north (I am in the South now)  All this is totally inappropriate, and not job related and is illegal to ask, by the way!  Asked me if I had family and friends in the area, what has this to do with the job.  Wanted to know if I had children too.  I said no, to end the discussion on this one.  Again, illegal and doesn't make sense as I am too old to have young children at home, which is evident looking at my resume.   He said he will be calling back to schedule.  Wonder if that will happen. I ended the phone call thinking I am not sure if I even want to go for an interview, if offered.  The interview can tell a lot about the job environment I have learned.   By the way, focus on your skills and experience.  Don't ask questions regarding vacations and other things, as all of it doesn't matter if you are not offered the job.

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AARP Expert

@n195222, wow, that's quite an interview.  And, as you correctly informed us, all inappropriate and mostly all unlawful.  Great advice to focus on skills and experience -- both on resumes but also in interviews.  Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

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Periodic Contributor

I guess I was blind to the age discrimination but after a work related accident that left me partially paralyzed for over a month, I found the company not replacing the vehicle and then downsizing my position.

I could still outdo most of my workers but a AAA manager said I was getting too old to lift batteries! 

The accident was not my fault and could not be prevented but I was accused of not leaving early enough to avoid it and that my new position was created to keep and eye on me! 

I was the top seller in batteries at this contracted company with AAA but we had no human resource person to go to and if you complain to certain management, you were just complaining or watch what you say.

one employee in 2012 called me grandpa and vandalized my vehicle and the company did nothing!

I went out on MRSA after getting it being an outpatient at a local hospital and he was still there when I came back only to be finally terminated for not showing up for work too many times.

i guess you had to be the same age or younger then the owner and party with him and that wasn’t me so here I am near 60 looking for work again!

what action could I have taken as other employees will not jeopardize their job to defend me?

I left after this new job  position was just too much of an insult for the business I had brought to the company the other employees couldn’t!

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AARP Expert

@chas9770, wow, your story is an unfortunate illustration of how much work needs to be done to challenge age discrimination in the workplace. You could have filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but if as you suggest, your coworkers would have been reluctant or afraid to corroborate your story, it would have been difficult to prove your allegations.  And, AARP has observed that it is especially difficult to prove age discrimination as a result of some unfavorable U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  We will continue our judicial and legislative advocacy to try to strengthen the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and to challenge any future efforts to weaken its protections.  Best wishes to you in your job search and thank you again for sharing your story to remind us of the importance of this work.

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Contributor

Age discrimination is alive and well in the Midwest. I was given a layoff notice from a large corporation in February of 2017 and my last day of employment there was 12/29. My unit of 4, all over the age of 40, trained our replacements out East. We were given a quick insincere offer to apply for one position out there. I say insincere because once I had time to think and then applied for jobs with the company I was rejected right and left. I have the e-mail that was sent stating that I was not being let go due to performance. The company even told me that one job posting was reserved for someone working with a visa so that she could go for her green card. When I challenged the legality of that, the posting was taken down and the company said they were going to review their practices. That didn't help me. Note that I was with the company for 39 years--my first job out of college. 

 

When applying and trying to disguise my age I was asked for my dates of employment with XYZ company. After over 40 applications, I have had two in-person interviews and one job offer. I took the  job and I now commute four hours one-way each weekend to be with my family. While I am over 60, I still have a daughter finishing high school and I am far from ready to check-in to a nursing home. I continue to apply for positions close to Minneapolis and my family. I run into the following: 1) Actuaries take professional exams. I took all of them and many job postings state that they want someone who has only a few. 2) The postings state a certain number of years of experience and you can bet the number isn't 39. This is what one HR person said in part: "I looked into this role and spoke with the recruiter and the hiring leader, it turns out he has much more experience than what they were looking for. They are proceeding with someone who has the exact experience."

 

It should not be up to a company to eliminate someone who has more qualifications than they are looking for. If I don't like the salary offered or think I'll be bored, I won't take the job. Please continue the work that you are doing. I don't think age discrimination will be eliminated in time to help me, but it may help those who are currently discriminating. The last year has been hell and an eight-hour drive each weekend is a rotten reward for being a good, loyal employee. Thank you!

 

 

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AARP Expert

bc55633236, First, I was very sorry to learn that you lost your job and about your subsequent frustrations in finding a new job.  I admire your courage and perseverance. It sounds like you have opted to move on and not challenge your termination as based on age. However, it is important to keep in mind - and others should know too - that the time limits for filing a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) begin to run on the date one receives unequivocal notice of an adverse action and not when that action actually happens.  So, in your case, the clock started running in February of last year and not on your last day of work.

As to discrimination against "overqualified" applicants, you have articulated the problem perfectly and AARP agrees wholeheartedly with you. We challenged a job posting with a maximum years of experience requirement and made many of the same arguments you expressed in your posting to the court.  We are waiting for a decision from the court of appeals. Thanks for sharing your story.

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Contributor

I discussed my layoff with both the EEOC and an attorney last year before my termination date and I was advised there was nothing I could/should do. That is the point, isn't it? The employers currently hold all the cards. I also would be gambling with my severance which I would have done if the odds were at all in my favor. Thank you for your response!

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Newbie

Have you had to look for a job lately and on the application they ask for your birthday ?  Is that the way they got around asking your age ?

Also, if anyone in the Maryland area is looking for a smart intelligent, loyal employee, get in touch with me.  I am having a horrible time procuring employment .  I don't need a hand out, I need a hand up.

 

My skill sets are awesome, yet I don't get any interiews or even phone cakls.  Please, if someone out therre can help please contact me <removed to protect your privacy>

 

Thank You all very much

I have to get out of thhis house.

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Regular Contributor

Do volunteer work! I do and it can be rewarding!  Good luck!

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Super Contributor

I've found that putting information on your resume that indicates you are senior cuts down on wasted time and expense.  This way the air is cleared.  Age discrimination is standard procedure that's nearly impossible to prove.  Once this adjustment was made, the calls and emails for jobs went to near zero, but my time and money are no longer wasted with interviews that were doomed from the time I first walked into their office and showed my gray.  The few that still contact me are of higher quality.

 

There are no legal remedies for this that help more than a very few who might be able to compile enough of a case to get it into a court of law.  The remedy lies in the society itself and how it views seniors and age.  This is beginning to improve as more seniors are still able to be actively and productively in the work places.

 

And there is the definition of retirement itself.  The concept is changing.  Due to better health and living, more people are reaching senior numbers.  More of us are still able, willing, and needing, to work, than ever.  The idea of doing nothing in old age is gone.

 

Here's what:  During pre-senior work years, we collected knowledge of what our jobs were and how to do them.  Think about it.  That's gold.  That's base for a new direction.  It takes some thinking but look back at what you did on your job(s).  This can be the base for a whole new line of work using that knowledge and experience to sell back to the job or work world.  The job becomes how to sell what we know!  How to use what we know to help others as well as ourselves.  Look around. And there are times when people who know what you did in your work life, will seek you out.  That works too.

 

Seniors are holding vast amounts of knowlege and experience nowadays in many areas.  This needs to be passed forward.  Much of it can only be done on the job, in the workplace itself.  The combination of the experienced senior worker and young career minded young person can't be beat.

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But what to do when the millenials don't want our mentorship?  I've thought long and hard about this issue.  Especially in view of this fact:  It was due to the kindness and genuine friendships of older workers in my earlier career that without...I would NEVER have forged the successful career that I HAVE had. For that reason I have always always looked for opportunities to share whatever I know and can with more junior level co-workers.  I made a promise from the start that I would pay forward what I myself received.  

But the perception is that it isn't welcomed, appreciated, or even wanted.  If it were....then why are we being turned down for jobs?  I remember one interview in particular last year.  Talk about grueling!  First, a one hour, 4 panel interview (all millenials), followed by a 2nd one hour, 4 panel interview with 4 more millenials. I'v literally been doing the same job for many years longer, and I hardly don't know my stuff, and I'm certainly not inflexible or rigid in the way I do things either.  I've accomplished the same tasks in a miriad of different ways, over time.  I expect it!

Then after 2 hours of sweatshop panel interviews, I got to the CEO, for another hour, and FINALLY, land at the desk of the hiring manager, whom I've already had an hour interview with the week before.  But by the time I got to his desk...I already knew.  I knew, that something had transpired in conversation.  Now, I am well aware that my answers were spot on.  I tried to be conversational also, so I didn't come across as a 'know it all'.  It is so frustrating.  I'm interviewing for the same kind of work I've been doing for 15 years.  Software development BSA.  Wash, rinse, repeat. 

 

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Conversationalist

Welcome to the 21st century!  I expect a gruling interveiw.  I have had up to a pannel of 8.  I have had 2 hrs of progressivel harder questions.  At the end my concentration was running thin.  The last few required several database tables then how would I perform certain complex tasks on those tables.

 

Be careful mentoring.  The millenials have been taught not to take advice and trust their own instints.  This is the opposite of Confusious who claimed wise men learn more from fools thn fools learn from wise men.They are the poorest educated Americans in over a century. 

 

For one of my languages, by specialty has 50 some pages of questions and answers.  My shortest list is 30 pages.  I use these to prepare for these interviews. I don't leave the parking lot before I update my list with any new questions.   I have every question I have been asked on an interview plus more I made up for my self.Millenials may be too young to value your opinion.  I have been classified an idiot in an org where I would never coded anything with such a poor error detection.  You could rately guess where the error was thrown.  HOW DUMB IS THAT?  In a code review I caught multiple old coding errors the lead programmer wrote but I was still the idiot because I was old.  I have found, even coders can be illogical even though their job hinges on flawless logic.  Most persons can't code by 60 some by only 50.  No one trusts any coder over 60.  I am almost 70 but I saved the day by doing close to 70% of the work of a 5 man tream.  With 70% of all the work I had the least number of the reported bugs.  That is the olny reason I have this job, a 5 year contract.  I had the director of IT in a high functioning agency claim I walked on water. I work for a low functioning agency now.  

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Contributor

Ah, error detection!  MMM...yes.  Reminds me of the time our 'lead' BSA approved a timing change to an upstream mainframe job (yep, I know, I know...still exists in the 21st century. Old reliable.. but inflexible as hell).  The job fed 5 primary datamart tables, and captured iteration history to changing customer orders for large semi trucks...a massive amount of data indeed.  He approved this change, and then didn't bother to tell the rest of our team.  So the job runs Sunday night, and pulls the data (the prior week's worth of change history) into our data warehouse, except that for weeks and weeks the job is getting cut short because the timing wasn't changed on our side.  As Canada's trucks pulled last, all of our Canadian truck data was corrupt.  And of course our database administrator was non too happy about the prospect of restoring 4 months of transaction history from backup.  

Now...who do you think got tasked with fixing this mess?

So many stories of dealing with spagetti code, and revolving door of contractors, on and offshore.

As we were typically the 'caboose' in this long chain of data that was poorly interfaced with SAP in Germany (skeleton team of Indian contractor did project while 75% got laid off in 2009, and then called back 6 months later to unscramble what got done), my team typically were the ones getting stuck working all weekend to fix issues shoved into production somewhere upstream on Friday afternoon.  Our team developed an obsession for error checking SQL jobs.  Its definitely what you do when you get tired enough of working every weekend, right? 

Grease monkey IT.  Once Germany opened the pipeline and  Brazil and China transactions began showing up in a slew of financial reporting, and triple counting every line item.  Issues with exchange rates.  Issues with ETL process mapped to a dimension table instead of the transactional FACT table.  That mistake meant that 200,000 trucks were under reported in sales reports over a 5 year period of time. I was astounded when I realized what it had been doing.  I remember thinking how bad it would have been if the error meant 200K LESS trucks were sold.  Would they shoot the messenger? Namely Me? Then old trucks long since sold years in the past suddenly showing up as 'NEW' truck sales.  on and on.  Yep, error check.

I spend $55.00 of money I don't have really, to keep Premium account on LinkedIn so I can use the training available in advance of any interview that I might need to brush up on some skill or another.  But finding work in a town where everyone is moving to is proving impossible now.  Too many people in my field have moved here, but no corresponding companies.  I'm back to contemplating life on the road again. 

 

 

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Conversationalist

@KimC575863,

 

I spend $55.00 of money I don't have really, to keep Premium account on LinkedIn so I can use the training available in advance of any interview that I might need to brush up on some skill or another. 

 

You have to invest in yourself.  You might want to spring for a resume re-write.  If so go through resume rabbit or some other service.  You want an organization to select the writters.  I don't know if they still have resume writers anymore.

 

What does Linkedin offer?  I have an account but just a normal one. I used to get adds for the extra service but I could care less who looks at my suff.  If they want to talk that is a different story.   I use it more as a business facebook and never for job hunting just because head hunters rarely use linked in.  That is more of human resorce thing.  Certain types of poitions lend them selves to Linked in.

 

Often your county will have job hunt classes like resume writting and interviewing.  You do an interview with the class watching. You will get plenty of helpful feed back. 

 

Just because you live in a screwed up society don't let it get you down. If you are angry you are the only one that gets hurt.

 

Good Luck

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Conversationalist

I know 2 persons who used that tactic.  One gave up after 3 years the other died jobless after 6 years.  They both averaged only 1 interview a year. They were both managers.  They have a longer shelf life than many job positions.  IT changes from 25% to 35% every year.  In computer programming you are concidered washed up in one year but all IT you are concidered worthless after 3 since most of what you know and your experiance is obsolite.  I know someone in this field trying to find a job in his field for 5 years then became a laboror.

 

I suspect if you have valuable skills that no one has the fact that you are too old and way too stale doesn't mean much.  That is where we are with the job market tighter than it has been this century. When I landed this job the market was so tight being too old and being ignorant enough to advertise it over expert advice advising not to.  It wasn't so much about your age as your stupidity as I learned.  No one wants a stupid programmer. The actual last say wasn't worried as much about your age as the hiring staff.  If you could talk the last say person into hiring you you were hired.  Once I made it into the face to face interview I was never turned away.  My experiance was too good to not interview me.  I suspect I did the best interview for each job opening and I got conformation from time to time even if I didn't get the job.  Once a program manager started giving me hiring information.  She had been in all the interviews said she didn't have the last say but no one came close to my interview.  Then she paused and said well there was one other who clearly was next best and the rest were missfits compared to us. The distant second got the job.  Why interviewing the old guy became apparent about a week later.  I was called back they were having trouble with the first pick and I was asked if I was still available.  They saw nothing wrong with me they just wanted a younger person.  I suspect the other guy got a handsome counter offer and the new job had to overcome that.

 

I have an expansive job seeking network after on and off job hunting for over a decade.  You are the first person I have heard of that was hired using this tactic out of several dozen persons. I suspect you were exactly what they were looking for in a hard to match position. I suspect you would have been hired if you lied or at least been unobvious about your ade but you would have 'waisted' lots of time going to interviews where they would never hire an old person.  You would have gotten much more interviewing practice. I never advertised a lie but if pressed by a staffing manager I would lie.  I never lied in the face to face interview.  That always came up after my credentialls were validated.  For a computer programmer that process is always extensive to crazy extensive. I have been asked hundreds of questions taking hours.  I have 2 cheat sheets I use for cramming for these ordeals one is 40 pages and the other is 60 pages.  I have every question I have ever been asked at an interview on that sheet.  Having been to over 100 interviews I have quite a selection. My job is often to do the impossible so getting around obsticals is only proof of my skill.  I sold it that way.  I was never condemed for showing initiative and resorsefulness.  I believed it was always seen as a positive not a negitive. In the last case my positives out weighed that I was too old for the job.  You will always need to prove that soundly.  

 

Today the job market is more open and it is more likely someone too old but with excelent credentials CAN get a job.  Whether you want to advertise that is your choice.  Remember you are advertising that you do not follow expert advice.  Can you sell that as desirable? 

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Bronze Conversationalist

Great information and explained very well. I'm set in what I want to do and content in what I'm doing, but for those who are still up in the air after retirement, I hope they heed your advice.
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Honored Social Butterfly

@rr5835

 

There are no rules which say an employer cannot ask your birthday and it would be almost impossible  to know if your age has anything to do with being suitable for a job until at least, the interview process is further along.

 

EEOC.gov - Facts About Age Discrimination

 

Accentuate your skills on the application.  

Good,Luck,on your job search.

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
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Contributor

The only solution I see for this is legislation with tighter controls over what information is REQUIRED on a resume or an application.
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