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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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Regular Contributor

Sad but true, I have reached out to our elected officials . They ask for my vote now they need to earn their check. They should be working for the people . Call Senator Dick Durbin, Tammy Duckworth, Robin Kelly. Bobby Rush, and your alderman and tell them they need to STOP THIS? You can also send a email as proof that you reached out to them so when they want to be re-elected you can tell them your experience. Sorry you had to sell your home , your alderman could have offered solutions that you were unaware of (ex:Illinois Hardest Hit and other programs). Good Luck to you , make our officials aware of your circumstances .
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AARP Expert

colleene593408,

AARP does not like the fact that age-related questions are not automatically unlawful either and we will continue to advocate that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) strengthen its regulations to ensure employers are prohibited from asking them. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you have experienced such difficulties.

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Regular Contributor

Employers should be prohibited from asking start date and end date of graduation and they should be prohibited from asking about an applicant salary history from previous employers . Asking questions regarding salary and graduation dates are a sure way of eliminating older experienced candidates.

What if a applicant age 55 put off attending college until years later because they wanted to start a family first ? You can have an applicant over 50 starting college in 2000 and graduating from college 2004 ?
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AARP Expert

TamaraH570525,

AARP agrees with you on both counts. Several states have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking job applicants about current or past salaries. AARP supports such laws and policies and our Connecticut state office was instrumental in getting such legislation passed in 2018.

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East Tenn currently fight title vll,adea... 58 black male..submitted several ideas to up grade certain areas in company...have been passed over for white females and males younger wit less experience...I also submit letters of complaints to ,plant mgr. HR,even contacted President of company...harrassment intimidation continues...persons guilty of this behavior still employed although I noted witnesses to company whom they refused to interview....help stressed completely out....

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Contributor

I and a number of my 50+ colleagues have been and are being discriminated against by a Fortune 100 company.  Discrimination ranges from being ignored to being fired and every instance cited in this article.

I have filed a formal complaint with the EEOC and they have agreed to investigate. Although they have told me it may be up to two years until my case is reviewed and completed.

I believe that we have a class action law suit.  What should I/we do next?

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l9386271,

One important difference between the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that charge filers under the ADEA do not have to wait for the EEOC to complete their investigation before filing a lawsuit.  Instead, they need only wait 60 days. So, if you and your colleagues are interested in filing a lawsuit, you could begin looking for an attorney while the EEOC continues its investigation. The National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), has a Find an Attorney function on its website, www.nela.org, where you can search for an attorney by location and specialty/experience.  I hope this information is helpful to you - and good luck!

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I was 54 years old and had been working for pharmaceutical companies for 15 years. I started a new position with a new pharmaceutical company in 2015. Everything appeared to going great! I received favorable evaluations , top bonus payments each quarter and positive feedback from the people I worked with especially the customers. Things took an awful turn when I was a witness to illegal FDA activity involving upper management and certain staff members. I actually discovered the illegal activity by pure accident not knowing that my life will suddenly become a living HELL. 

 

I had a racist manager who had some serious behavioral issues. He had never been a manager before and was more interested in writing up and terminating employees just for the sport of it.

When the individuals involved in the illegal activity found out that I was exposed to what they were doing, they approached me and asked me to look another direction. It was very clear they knew that they were violating the company compliance and the FDA but out of fear I agreed. 

A few weeks later I was scheduled to meet with my manger to discuss my performance and to identify problems areas in the day to day work flow. Prior to my meeting I was warned by my colleagued that the manager was paying attention to everyone work load and would challenge employees on each and every account. If an employee was not servicing an account he would give them a negative evaluation regardless of the explanation.

 During my meeting my manager started to challenge me on decisions I had made involving several accounts. I respectfully gave detailed explanations to every inquiry. Then the moment came , I was forced to tell my manager what I had discovered . I asked for his guides in dealing with the situation. I expressed how uncomfortable I felt being in this situation. I told him that I have no intentions of being a "Whistle Blower" . My manager laughed and seem to agreed with me but offered no suggestions what so ever.

 

The next day I received a phone call from the company legal department asking me about the conversation I had with my manager. I was knocked off my feet. My manager never told me he was going to report the incident to the legal department. I was compelled to truthfully answer all of the questions. 

 

After my conversation with the legal department , things took a drastic change for the worst. I received several letters of warning regarding poor work performance, put on several unrealistic performance plans , accused of 5 egregious made up FDA violations against me that was absolutely false, and I was subject to weekly evaluations meetings with management. All of the

allegations made against me was by the same manager who was involved in the illegal activity

I reported to my own manager.

During one of my conference call investigations I gave detail account of what I was doing, the

exact time, date, and staff members who were present. I gave account of exactly what I was working on that day and the outcome of the situation. The investigator condescendingly asked me how could I possibly remember that much detail ( implying I was lying ) ? I told him I have always kept a daily calendar of my day to day activities for my own reference.  Several days after my last investigation I 

was told to destroy my calendar and all of my personal notes immediately. When I asked why ? I was 

told "just do it". I must mention that all two thousand employees in my position had note books or calendars with details of day to day activities. In fact this has been a practice since I came a board two years ago. Later that week I received another phone call from my manager following up with me on destroying all my notes. He wanted to know where were my notes destroyed and by what method did I use (ex: personal shredder or dumpster)?  

 

Management from Corporate Headquarters flew in to evaluate my work performance and there were 

interviews conducted with everyone I worked with regarding my work performance . If a colleauge gave any positive feedback the interviewer would ask to hear only negative encounters with me. The interviewer was surprisingly the same manager who I reported for engaging in illegal FDA violation.

 

I was terminated 6 weeks later with no particular reason stated in my termination letter. My position was immediately filled by my mangers best friend (in her mid 30's) I have been unemployed now for over two years. I love working , I have worked every since I was 15 years of age. I have submitted close to 1000 applications and have flown to other states for interviews yet I have not received one job offer. Once the employer ask what year did you graduate from college you are eliminated. I feel employers should not ask what year did a appliacant graduate but ask if the applicant have a college degree. Once the applicant is hired then request a copy of an offical transcript. 

 

 

 

 

 

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AARP Expert

TamaraH570525,

Thank you for your message.  I am very sorry you had such a horrible experience at your previous employer and are now facing a very frustrating and prolonged job search. AARP wholeheartedly agrees with your comment about graduation dates and have urged the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to strengthen its regulations interpreting the ADEA to make it clear that such inquiries which reveal a candidate's age, should be prohibited.

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Regular Contributor

AND PREVIOIS SALARY SHOULD ALSO BE PROHIBITED.
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Regular Contributor

Thank you for your response. This forum is very therapetic for me and I truly appreciate all the words of encourage from people I have not met. I have decided to fight against age discrimination , discrimination of any kind, and corporate bulling. This must "Stop"!. All across the country everyone is paying attention to "The Me Too Movement" because it involve high power celeberties and executives but what about the individuals who are not well known? Who 's listening to our experience? I gurantee there are worst cases of sexual, racist ,age harassment cases happening with just regular folks than Hollywood ,we just don't have the resources to get the attention.

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How long do you have to report age discrimination? And where do you report it to? I believe I was fired due to age discrimination. in the past going to HR for being verbally abused by the CEO and the CFO and the CEO's brother did nothing- it was brushed under the carpet!
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nlkorte,

Charges alleging violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) must be filed within 180 or 300 days of the alleged discriminatory action (depending on the state - for most states, the deadline is 300 days). Charges are filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the ADEA and other civil rights laws. The agency's website is www.eeoc.gov. 

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It seems that a part of the problem is that older workers, who may be experiencing discrimination on their existing jobs or in hiring for a new job, are unable readily to get definitive legal advice and aggressive representation because their claims are of such uncertain or low value that plaintiff's attorneys won't take them.

 

Yet most states have a large cohort of retired and late-in-career-but-under-employed lawyers, who have different economic constraints than the plaintiff's bar, and who might be willing to represent these workers, on a volunteer or affordable-hourly-rate basis, if professional liability risk and other issues could be addressed. Experienced attorneys, even if their career background is in another field of law, already possess the professional skills needed to do this work, and could rapidly be trained in the necessary substantive law to operate under appropriate supervision.

 

AARP could do older workers a great service by creating an Older Workers Law Clinic Platform that can be instantiated in various states to help harness the many available retired and late-in-career lawyers to serve older workers. Each of the actual clinics might be implemented, e.g., by a law school that already has a law clinic for the training of its students, and could use the AARP Clinic Platform for training and supervision of participating lawyers. AARP could assist in obtaining grant support to fund operations, including professional liability insurance. Where appropriate, clients with viable claims could be referred out to the private bar. The clinic could serve clients with claims of lower value and those who present matters that have not yet matured into claims. In addition to the obvious benefit to the individual clients, serving older workers with lower-value and not-yet-matured claims would provide a broad societal benefit by contradicting the belief among employers that they can engage in age discrimination with impunity because employees and applicants will obtain aggressive legal representation in only the most egregious cases.

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Neil0926054,

Thanks for your insights and idea! I will pass them along to others at AARP. 

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Laurie, I'm 59 and look at least 15 years younger.  Regardless, I am having a terrible time here in Colorado which is a very "young" State in terms of the workforce.  My resume goes back only to the late 90's yet I still feel it's important to show potential employers that I worked for Microsoft back then.  Being a Microsoft employee was like winning the lottery in that era.  Everyone wanted a job there!  But when I get interviews (which is rare) the interviewer often says things like "well THAT was a long time ago" and "let's talk about more recent experience".  And I don't get the job.  To make matters worse, I had stage 3 cancer a few years ago, and was actually laid off while fighting for my life.  My career has spiraled downward since due to my recovery, the job market competition, resulting gaps in employment even though I am healthy today.  The only jobs I've been able to get since then is call center and courier.  Yet I hold HR certifications, and have a wealth of office services and administrative/HR experience.  I'm at the end of my rope; broke, bankrupt, and feeling worthless even though in my heart I have a lot to offer for many years to come.  

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shoodoobee,

I am so sorry you are facing such obstacles in finding employment. Stories like yours are why AARP is not only fighting age discrimination in the courts - and working to strengthen the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in Congress, but also striving to educate employers about the value of older workers. It sounds like you have a wealth of experience and I urge you to not give up. Thank you for writing to share your story.

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I am a 62 year o!d legal professional, not an attorney, who has been struggling since 2011 with severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks. I started a new position in June 2019 and have lost significant time due to my husband's and my health. My colleagues ridicule me behind my back, of which I can hear their conversations, and I just breakdown. I have been out of work for two weeks trying to deal with my depression and my husband's health. I am not eligible for FMLA or short term disability because I have not been with the company a year. 

 

The job is extremely stressful and comments have been made that I do not move as fast as others in the department. Speaking with HR for accommodation has been met with a resounding "no" because " if we do it for you we have to do it for others". I am scheduled to return to work in two days and I am terrified. Is it due to my age? I believe no question it is and the mentality of some of the colleagues is "mean girls". 

 

I have been looking for new, less pressured roles and yet when I have an interview they can see my age and the interview just becomes a formality and courtesy.

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ptallent,

I am very sorry to learn about your health and work issues. Have you made it clear to your present employer that you are seeking a reasonable accomodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)? That law requires an employer to provide reasonable accomodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense to the employer. If you believe they are not complying with the ADA, you may want to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the ADA. The agency's website is at www.eeoc.gov. I hope things work out for you and I'm sorry you're going through this.

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Thank you for your kind respond.

 

I have been told that if we accommodate you we have to accommodate others and that  is against EEOC. I know that if I file a complaint the company will know it's me. I have come to learn that other employees have reported those who are bullies have been moved in the office and accomodated. I trust no one. My mental health is destroyed. I have to return to the office on Monday and have been told by HR they are "truly" concerned about my health and that my desk is overflowing with work. No team mentality, to help your colleagues, you sink or swim and take care of your own work!

 

At almost 62 I have never been exposed to such a principle. I am truly at a loss as to what to do to survuve.

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Regular Contributor

I understand. Follow your gut and go the EEOC route , if a company retaliate that additional evidence you can use against them.
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Regular Contributor

Please know Human Resources responsibility is to protect the company not the employees. I think it is best to seek legal advise first or go to the Department of Labor before speaking with Human Resources. You need to speak with someone who will act in your best interest and it is definitely not HR.
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TamaraH570525,

While that is often the case, every situation is different. However, the most important thing to keep in mind is that if one chooses to wait to file a formal charge with the EEOC until after discussing the issue with their HR department, the time limitations for filing the charge is not tolled. So, it is critical not to lose sight of the time limits for filing a charge - which is generally 300 days after the alleged discrimination action and in some states it is only 180 days.

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 I coincidentally ran across this article and it address my eggreous work place experience. I think my information is very powerful because it involves a huge multi billion dollar powerful company. Most attorny's and politicians are intimidated to really pursue this company eventhough they are currently under a goverment integerity aggreement for several years and have settled out of court with several employees. My evidence is so detailed that during a corporate compliance investigation I was ordered to turn in all of my notes including my personal daily work journal, needless to say I did not comply (I still have my documentation in hand). I know the February 2020 edition of AARP has started a new and powerful movement..I suffered physically, mentally and financially because of "age discrimination" and "race discrimination"not to mention the stress it has caused my parents and siblings. I was on the path of abiding by life rules, get a education, find a good career , maintain strong work ethics , and save for retirement. Never in the plan could I have ever planned to be out of work in my mid 50's. I have been seeking employment for almost three years, have applied for over 500 jobs and have been granted interview after interview even in other states but NO job offer. I would like to email Laurie some valuable information that can potently help a lot of employees over 50 across the United States . I am confident that the employees would be more than willing to corporate , I just need your ear . I won't rest until this situation get attention.

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Newbie

I was fired from a company I had dedicated 10 years to. I had never been written up much less fired from any job before in my entire professional career. My reviews throughout the years (including the last) were all excellent. The company fought me for unemployment all 4 times and I won all 4 times.

 
They were releasing employees that fit my profile. Over 50 and more than 10 years of service. The EEOC took the case, investigated but eventually said they could not continue. They did tell me that they believed I had a case and to pursue it with a lawyer. 
 
By that point I was so tired and didn’t have any fight left in me. In hindsight I wish I had continued. That company and many others believe it is ok to let older more costly employees go and replace them with 2-3 younger employees for the price of one. You get what you pay for dear company, you get what you pay for.
 
It's appalling to be treated this way. To be put out to pasture in the name of profit. That said, I was so fortunate to land a new job (after 1-2 hard years of trying… “You’re overqualified”, “ They had someone else in mind”, “ The company is going in a new direction") But I survived, thankfully, and landed with a much better company. 
 
My point is “things happen”. Some for a reason you can understand. Some for a reason you will not (until maybe later). Either way I knew that moment would NOT define me. I miss the days when my knowledge and experience was a valued commodity to an employer but I know my worth and if I never found another job, I would always know my worth!
 
 I appreciate everything AARP does for us and hope that eventually things can change. 
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MackS23205,

Thank you sharing your story. I applaud you for your courage and perseverance. Best wishes for a successful future.

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Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences regarding age discrimination in the workplace. My department has recently replaced a great manager with a new, 22 year old  man. He immediately began referring to me as senile, old and slow. He would make references to things that I was too old to understand. I advised him that I was not amused by his comments, which usually took place before much younger staff members. I am 70 years old and have been with this company about 8 years. Please tell me where to go with this. I am told that he has been counselled in the past for this the way he talks to staff.

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Regular Contributor

YOUR LOCAL EEOC , STATE EEOC, YOUR LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, OFCCP AND CHECK WITH THE BAR ASSOCIATION FOR A EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY. GOOD LUCK!
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karlasmith,

Wow, I really sorry to hear that you have been subjected to such blatant age discrimination at your job. Since this manager has been counselled in the past, I would go to your HR department first before going to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or state fair employment practice agency. I say this because of they took action before, hopefully they will do so again - and hopefully more forcefully. However, if they do not take your complaint seriously, and do not take action, I would not hesitate to file a formal charge of age discrimination with the EEOC - because the behavior you describe is harassment.

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I am 57 years old and work for Hilton. I was downsized last year from a server bartender to a cashier in another restaurant. Recently, a server position opened up and I applied. I also informed a 34 year old coworker of the opening. He was prescreened and went through 2 more interviews before I was even prescreened.  
    I am abundantly qualified. I have over 20 years fine dining and this restaurant is upscale Japanese. I also noticed that at 34 years old, my friend would have been the oldest front of house employee in the restaurant.

   I notified my union and asked my manager what was up. The next day, I received an email saying that the job had been rescinded.

   Should I still notify Eoc ? I feel if I hadn't said anything I would have been passed over, and I have never seen anyone hired there over 40 since it was opened nearly 3 years ago.

 

 

 

  

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