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Ask The Expert: Age Discrimination in Job Search and the Workplace

Have you ever seen or experienced age discrimination at work or feel that your age is negatively affecting your job search? About 3 in 5 workers over 50 surveyed by AARP think older workers face discrimination based on their age.

AARP Foundation Senior Attorney Laurie McCann is an expert in this field, with extensive litigation experience related to age discrimination and other employment issues.

Now thru Monday, January 27, Laurie is here to answer your questions on age discrimination in the workplace – and to address your options under the law and what you can do to protect yourself.

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Here is the latest I saw in an ad for a professional position that I am well qualified for:  "early career opportunity in ... ". This is definitely code for a younger, Millennial type of person. Feedback I have received from recruiters after an in-person interview has been a comment by the hiring manager, often middle aged himself/herself:  "not what I expected".  The time is now, today, to stop talking about age discriminiation and aegism in the employment hiring process and workplace and get off the dime about this, and rewrite the laws and policies to outlaw this misconduct by employers and HR staff. I am tired of contributing my anecdotal observations to forums like this. I want action for a change. Don't allow this to happen any longer. And, for defense and federal contractors in particular, restrict their rights to bid on proposals and contracts for some time period after it has been demonstrated they practice such discrimination via performance reviews, layoffs, demotions, retaliation for handling issues through internal channels, etc.  And, don't forget that HR staffs, comprised of mostly women, BTW, function as gatekeepers for and hand maidens to upper management, so that they can keep their own jobs which are largely on overhead and not tied to lines of business and profits. GET OFF THE DIME NOW, TODAY. THIS CANNOT CONTINUE.

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BRAVO!  I am thrilled to see someone else write about facts in the workplace.  The younger generations that seem to think they got one over on us "older than dirt" when we are in our late 40's and 50's need to realize they may be getting jobs because they are cheaper labor and make ones within company look good because OF THEIR lack of experience due to their age and level of maturity, I am a divorcee in my 50's and you would think we are back near the cave times that a woman cannot have a job without a man she is going home to to clean his toilet and wash his clothes.  Wonder what REALM of discrimination that would be labeled in.  Some of the younger generations like to talk to older genreations on the jobs like we are punks in a schoolyard but run to us like they need their diapers changed when their disrespectful mouths and lazy ways catch up tp them and they are on verge of loosing their jobs.  Wonder how they treat their own parents and God help their parents if they were ever disabled with children like that on the job that are what we refer to as adults.  And let's venture into those 30's and early 40 year olds.  At that age I was raising kids, running a home and working one job if I was lucky not fussing about a pair of shoesI didn't get or the latest hottie in the office wasn't paying me enough attention even though I have the wedding ring on. You know one of those conversations between an employee and a member of HR or maybe even the President of the Company.  It is a doggie eat doggie world out there now and I reload everytime I need to when it comes to threatening peoples' jobs if you don't see and do things their way,  You know do as I tell you to do even if it is wrong.  Are they openly burning the constitutional and civil rights these days or pooping on them and filming it and posting on youtube.com likeI saw the American Flag being done on youtube.com by what appeared to be a black person years ago?  What's law to them?  What's law to us?

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AARP Expert

@mh225809, AARP agrees that older job applicants being able to challenge policies and practices that although do not mention age - clearly discriminate based on age. In our litigation and amicus work, we have challenged job requirements that impose a maximum years of service cap (Kleber v. CareFusion) and recruiting practices that focus exclusively on college campuses for certain jobs (Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers). Unfortunately, the courts, for the most part, have been receptive and it is clear that an amendment to the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) may be necessary to make it clear that age discrimination victims are entitled to the same rights and tools to challenge discriminatory practices as other discrimination victims.  AARP is committed to continue to fight to ensure that age discrimination is viewed as seriously and challenged as vigorously as all other forms of discrimination. Thank you for your passion for this issue as well.

 


@mh225809 wrote:

Here is the latest I saw in an ad for a professional position that I am well qualified for:  "early career opportunity in ... ". This is definitely code for a younger, Millennial type of person. Feedback I have received from recruiters after an in-person interview has been a comment by the hiring manager, often middle aged himself/herself:  "not what I expected".  The time is now, today, to stop talking about age discriminiation and aegism in the employment hiring process and workplace and get off the dime about this, and rewrite the laws and policies to outlaw this misconduct by employers and HR staff. I am tired of contributing my anecdotal observations to forums like this. I want action for a change. Don't allow this to happen any longer. And, for defense and federal contractors in particular, restrict their rights to bid on proposals and contracts for some time period after it has been demonstrated they practice such discrimination via performance reviews, layoffs, demotions, retaliation for handling issues through internal channels, etc.  And, don't forget that HR staffs, comprised of mostly women, BTW, function as gatekeepers for and hand maidens to upper management, so that they can keep their own jobs which are largely on overhead and not tied to lines of business and profits. GET OFF THE DIME NOW, TODAY. THIS CANNOT CONTINUE.


 

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Interviewed for a handful of positions commensurate with my skills, qualifications, experience, etc., only to be informed that I wouldn't "mesh with the other employees," wasn't a "personality fit," "they didn't know if you would be happy coming to work each day."  Total BS.  They'd apparently rather have employees who were younger, less experienced, etc.  Those who are hardworking, reliable, responsible, dependable, etc. within my age range need not apply.

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After being bullied by a coworker, I was told it was a personality conflict.

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Bullying in the workplace has sadly become a way of work life these days.  Never acceptable in any way, shape or form.  "Juvenile adults" within an "adult day care setting" who are nonetheless shined on by weak / cowardly management.  Bullies are inferior to those whom they target.  Sooner or later, it catches up to them, especially when circumstances change.  

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AARP Expert

@gr6721, I agree with your assessment! At AARP, we have seen "not a good fit" all too often being used as euphemism for age discrimination. We will continue to monitor this trend and will strive to educate the courts to recognize when this pretextual explanation is being relied on by employers. We wish you success in your job search.

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I am finding that companies hang up after they ask what year I graduated from high school. Is there any recourse to get past that 2nd question--first being if I am a US citizen.

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AARP Expert

CharleneC707364,

I am sorry to hear that you have encounterd such an age-related question so frequently. Although I shouldn't be surprised since AARP's 2017research study, the Value of Experience, found that among the 29 percent of survey respondents who had applied for a job or gone on a job interview in the previous two years, 44 percent had been asked to provide a birth date, graduation date or some other age-related information. While asking for birth dates or high school graduation dates is not automatically illegal, the information can easily be used to discriminate and these questions also often deter older workers from applying for jobs. That is why AARP has urged the EEOC to strengthen its regulations to make it clear that such inquiries are unlawful. 

I supposed you respond that you assume they are asking to make sure you are at least 18 and that you can assure them that you are, or politely ask them why they are asking. The one thing I would never do is give false information.  Thanks and best wishes in your job search.

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Welcome everyone, let's get started! @lmccann58, what are some first steps a person should take if they feel they are being discriminated against at work based on their age?

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I believe that I am not treated the same as I was when I was younger  (at work)  the younger nurses are favored over me. 

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AARP Expert

km47292295,

I am sorry to hear that you believe you are not being treated fairly at work based on your age. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits unfair treatment based on age in every aspect of employment - hiring, termination, promotions, training, etc. You should consider talking to a supervisor - or your HR department - or contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the ADEA. The agency's website is www.eeoc.gov.  

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AARP Expert

I always recommend that individuals keep a journal/list of any instances, i.e., an age-related comment, a younger, less qualified colleague who gets the promotion or training opportunity instead of you, so that if and when the time comes that you want to talk to a supervisor or HR department about the situation, or file a formal charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or state fair employment practice agency, you are armed with specific instances, dates, times, etc. Also, depending on the context and relationships - every situation is different - sometimes it helps to stand up for yourself - tell the person or persons who are making the age-related comments that in addition to being offensive, their remarks are unlawful.

 


@AARPLynne wrote:

Welcome everyone, let's get started! @lmccann58, what are some first steps a person should take if they feel they are being discriminated against at work based on their age?


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I had a rotator cuff tear in 2004. It has healed. But I cannot get hired. And there's not ghat many hospitals here in Hot Springs. I have gone back to ask for 

90 days let me show you what I can do. If not acceptable. Then I will leave but if I'm ok you have to hire me. NO. 59 at the time. I had 24 yrs in Operating Room. Yes I deserve the bigger bucks. I have a degree in this. But still won't let me in because they can get a 23 yr old for 1/3 of my cost. 

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AARP Expert

LisaB692781,

I am so sorry to learn of your frustration in finding a new job after your injury. There is useful information for older job seekers at https://www.aarp.org/work/job-search/?intcmp=FTR-LINKS-JOBRES-JOB-EWHERE. I hope you find a rewarding position soon. It sounds like you have a lot to offer.

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I am 62. Worked for SNF for 17 yrs. Went to work and was randomly audited. Was scheduled to work 12 hrs that day.  Someone showed up to relieve me after 8 hrs and I was fired. This was planned prior to  my arrival that day.  I was told it was because I did not take my job seriously. I had repeated a mistake during the audit that I had made 3 months prior.  I had been at the top of my pay scale and they had recently had me train 6 new hires. All in there 20's & 30's. 

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AARP Expert

TerriR92118,

I am sorry to hear about your termination and that you believe you were treated unfairly. An important fact for whether you have a strong age discrimination claim or not is how similarly situated younger employees were treated. Specifically, did any younger employees commit mistakes during an audit and how were they treated as a result? If you are interested in filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), keep in mind there are important deadlines for doing so. Generally, charges must be filled within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act.

 

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After 38 years at a semi-autonomous public university in NJ, I was told that I was not performing at a level that the office can continue to pay me at. I went from a commendable employee in April 2019 to an unsatisfactory employee in October. I am an NL civil service employee and I work  15-24 hours additional to my 9-5 hours each week (without compensation). I was told that my performance level was not acceptable - after being handed back a portfolio of accounts that was originally taken away and given to a new FT hire because 1 person could not do it all.  

Disgusted and unappreciated,

NJ Mom

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Welcome to the world of age discrimination and a way for your employer to save money for the company you work for to go back to minimum wage jobs !! Only in America
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If you have a grievance system use it and start turning in all those hours for pay or do not give them your time no buisness appreciates it or counts it I know done it for 5 yrs with the us government then they started treating me bad when one of those throat cutting back stabbing lying people who do I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine came along

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AARP Expert

js95173648,

I am very sorry to hear of your problems at work. Sudden, unwarranted, changes in performance reviews are often viewed with suspicion by courts and the EEOC in discrimination cases. If your employer has an mechanism for appealing or challenging a performance review, you may want to consider doing so. 

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Had sudden write ups after 13 yrs of nothing had a suspension for two false write ups so to save my retirement I went off on fmla and filed for my retirement pension under disability  rose it out till I was approved .but I was forced to do this because 2 employees didnt like me because I always refused to do the dirty underhanded things they wanted and would continue to do the right things for customers the company couldn't get rid of the chronic complainer and trouble maker because of a direct line of conspiracy and corruption from the chronic complainer to the director of the company so they decided to get rid of the victims starting with me then they moved on to a mother person she didnt like now they are working on a 3rd person she doesnt like I told the supervisors that it wouldn't do any good to get rid of the victims because when new people came in if they insulted the liar and chronic complainers intelligence she would go aft er someone else. And that's the veterans administration in clarksburg wv

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WaynetteD432130,

I am very sorry to learn of your unfortunate employment experience.  Thank you for sharing your story.

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