For decades, women have faced numerous challenges in the workplace. Age discrimination has been one of the most blatant in a society that dwells on and values physical appearance often at the expense of ability and competence. You can be among the most devoted employees, steadily gaining promotions until you reach an executive or top management position, and, suddenly, the employer dumps you.
While federal law protects employees from age discrimination, proving so is difficult. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects workers who are 40 years and older. The law prohibits discrimination based on matters of employment that include promotions, assignments, training, hiring, compensation and benefits. However, the law has limits due to loopholes, and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have weakened it.
Claims of cost-cutting or reorganization
Age discrimination can surface in numerous ways: overlooked for promotions, demoted or forced out to make way for younger employees. Age-related assumptions often exist in the workplace, giving the perception that older workers no longer invest in their careers, lack technical skills and desire to work at slower paces.
However, in these situations, it is the employer who is no longer invested in the employee. And such employers explain away that their decision was part of a cost-cutting endeavor or reorganization that often targets the older workers with the highest salaries and best benefits.
Understand your rights
In 2019, workers filed 15,573 claims of age discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The number has trended down since 2016, however, the statistics are cyclical. After all, more than 20,000 claims of age discrimination were reported for nine consecutive years from 2008 to 2016.
Some employees fear retaliation if they file a lawsuit and that they will have difficulty obtaining work elsewhere. But that is the chance you may have to take. Always keep in mind that you must know your rights. Thoroughly understand the federal law banning age discrimination. This gives you some power. Women and men alike face age discrimination in the workplace, but women usually face it more often.