Discrimination in the workplace is something that has been taken more seriously as time goes on and businesses – as well as employees who are an integral part of them – evolve.
In fact, employment discrimination cases are on the rise. This is thanks in part to cases becoming more publicized and people being more aware of these cases through varying forms of media, among other things.
One such category employees are still seeing discrimination is age. A 2021 AARP survey said 78% of older workers saw or experienced age discrimination in the workplace in 2020, compared to 61% in 2018.
What Constitutes Age Discrimination
Ageism involves treating an employee or employment candidate less favorably because of his or her age.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. (Though it doesn’t protect workers under 40, some states do have laws that protect younger workers.)
Discrimination cannot happen by law in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
It is unlawful to harass a person because of his or her age, and any policy or practice that applies to everyone can be deemed illegal if it has a negative impact on people 40 or older, specifically due to age.
The Idea of Succession
Those who make hiring and big company decisions have an eye on long-term planning. They want what’s best for the businesses not just today, but years down the line.
It’s often thought, then, that those of an older age set should simply step aside and make way for the younger employees who are perceived as a more integral part of the company’s growth.
Older adults are seen as creating an impasse when it comes to distributing resources, jobs, or positions of influence, and that the younger generation needs its turn.
Equality is Not Always Equal
More people are striving for equality for everyone, both in the workplace and out. A joint study done by NYU and Stanford found a surprising correlation when looking at efforts of equality.
Those who were working to reduce prejudice toward traditionally discriminated groups were less likely to endure racist and sexist views. However, this same group of people was actually more likely to support ageist views, hinging on the idea of succession.
It’s Ingrained in Society as A Whole
Ageism is so prevalent in the subtlest of ways that it’s often overlooked, and therefore not always recognized as prejudice.
Wanting to feel young or striving to “be younger” has been normalized. Think of birthday cards that point out what’s lacking for older adults due to age, harkening back to the glory days of youth.
Comedians, public figures, even friends and family crack jokes that center around age, and no attention is ever truly paid to it.
Age discrimination simply does not see the type of backlash that other areas of discrimination do, and so it is more easily swept under the rug.