Why Age Discrimination in the Workplace Still Seems Normal (2023)

VonRichard Eisenberg,next avenueEditor

A recent headline on Stanford University Business School's Insights website caught my eye: “Job Equality for All! (unless they're old)." The article detailed intriguing research by New York University's Michael North and Ashley Martin of Stanford, who found that workers who openly speak out against racism and sexism are still biased toward older people workers were.

As these researchers explained in their American Psychological Association article about their study, ageism in the workplace is alive and sick. Additionally, after surveying 348 people, North and Martin found that the younger they were, the more likely they were to have discriminatory attitudes toward older workers. Not surprisingly, an AARP survey found that 78% of older workers saw or experienced age discrimination in the workplace in 2020; In 2018 it was 61%.

To learn more about the notions of ageism reflected in the idea of ​​equality for (almost) everyone, I recently interviewed North. Highlights of our conversation:

Next Avenue: What sparked your interest in the research that led to the Equality for (almost) all study?

Michael Nord:In fact, I get asked that a lot because I'm in my late thirties. From a personal perspective, I had this experience when I was twenty-two years old when I was a research assistant to a psychology professor coordinating a study on aging and wisdom. And he said, 'You're going to have to interview people for two hours at a time. Half of the time that person is in their 30's and the other half of the time they are in their 60's, 70's, 80's or even older. And as I left, I remembered thinking I wasn't looking forward to it that much: I got along fine with thirty-year-olds, but I thought older people were boring.


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It turned out to be a life changing moment because I enjoyed interacting with all of these groups. In fact, I enjoyed interacting with the group of over sixty people. I just thought people in their 60's, 70's, 80's and up would be more interesting.

They were also more interested in me. They were more curious about what the study was about.

A few years later, when I was applying to graduate school in social psychology, my wonderful mentor and I started talking about agingage discriminationand age-related prejudices. She said: "Not a lot of people focus on that. It's way under the radar. And so we basically agreed to study that. That was really the starting point.

What was your approach to this study that you and Ashley Martin conducted and why?

Our focus was on this idea that older adults are being subtly pushed out the door: It can seem like people don't take you as seriously as they used to. They stay out of meetings. They can talk to you. Your opinion could be lost.

There's that kind of subtle tension where older adults are expected to step aside and get out of the way and stop creating that perceived bottleneck in the distribution of resources or jobs or positions of influence so the younger generation can participate in the row is.

And does this apply to the way people view both older men and older women?

We did a previous study and found that older women lack some of these expectations compared to older men.

Tell me about the correlations you found in relation to racism, sexism and ageism.

Ashley noticed a pattern in our data from previous studies. As more people agreed with the idea that there should be equality for all and made efforts to break down prejudices against traditionally discriminated groups, this surprising correlation emerged. Those who were more egalitarian and sought to dismantle prejudice against traditionally discriminated groups were less likely to condone racist views and less likely to support sexist views, but oddly enough, they actually werefurtherlikely to support discriminatory views and support this succession idea; that the older adults must step aside and make way for the younger generations.

(Video) Why Does Ageism in the Workplace Happen, and How Can We Prevent It?

And have you noticed that this age discrimination is more likely to apply to younger people?

Could it be that the younger you are, the more you support this idea of ​​succession? The short answer is yes.

What age are we talking about?

That's not an easy question to answer. In general, the younger you are, the more you support these views.

Everyone knows that people shouldn't be racist. People shouldn't be sexist. I guess I'm not sure I understand why it's still okay to be age biased.

The most blunt way I can say that ageism is socially tolerated to the point where it's not uncommon for people to dismiss it as prejudice.

I think people see some "truth" in ageism that "making me feel young is normal". If you walk into a local pharmacy, it's fairly socially acceptable to see birthday cards that say, "Ha ha, you're old now."

It often amazes me how comedians and late night talk show hosts make jokes about older people. And there was really no real reaction to such jokes. There really hasn't been a major organized civil rights movement to fight this.

there is a covenantAge Discrimination Act, but not much is applied. And the courts basically destroyed it. As such, employees may feel that it is okay to be age-discriminatory.

Absolutely. Age discrimination is extremely difficult to prove today.

Think about how many hiring decisions, firing decisions, promotions, raises, and opportunities are assigned based on something called “matching.” Man, the word "fit" is so loaded when it comes to age, right? It's a keyword.

Tech companies don't specifically say that seniors don't have to apply, but in almost every way they do say so in their job descriptions. Not to mention their ball pits and foosball table that some of their workplaces have.

(Video) What proof do I need to prove an age discrimination case? - San Antonio Employment Lawyer

I'm 64 years old and trying to put myself in the shoes of 20 and 30 year olds. I could understand why some would think older people would block them. There are many older workers and when you are young you often want to climb the ladder. I don't know if I would call that ageism. I would maybe just call it a sort of realistic view of the world of work and demographics.

Well said. Thank you for saying so too, because I think it's very, very important if we really want to solve this problem.

As you said, there are certain pragmatic realities. I think the question is: to what extent is it biased and to what extent is it not? That's a great question and really hard to answer.

What do you think?

Everything seems to be getting more competitive. There's a kind of tension between the old guard and the new guard. So I can be younger and say, 'Well, if these older people just walked out of the way, that would free up resources and opportunities.' And you know, it's hard to say that's 100 percent wrong.

However, I would say that it is not that simple.

As the economy is doing well, workers young and oldatTake care. Since the economy is bad, theyatmisunderstand Generations are not in direct competition with each other, even if it may seem so.

Do older workers block younger workers?

In general, if you think about how an organization works, the types of roles that someone in their 50s or 60s fills are likely to be very different than someone in their 20s. An entry-level job is very different from a more managerial job.

One of the major misguided arguments against hiring older workers is the belief that older workers do not perform as well as younger workers. And I'm sure that could happen in some cases, or in some industries, or in some roles. But statistically, job performance is notNOdecrease with age.

In your opinion, what is a discriminatory attitude in the workforce?

It really seems unfair to write off an elderly person from the living room perspective because "they don't know how things work anymore". What most other people in the room don't know is that this person probably saw the same thing in 1979.

(Video) WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION: Why Do Older Women Have it Harder at Work??

And they really remember what worked and what didn't. And they probably have something pretty succinct to say about it. Will it be the perfect answer? Not necessarily.

I think it's a healthier view to say, “My elders have been there before; I can learn a lot from them. And vice versa. The older guard shouldn't just fire the younger guard and say they're looking for your job.

Are there things employers could do to educate people that some perceptions of older workers are wrong?

It seems to me that if you're a company and you have senior executives who want to stay and contribute, there are ways you can do that.

In fact, I have an article about it in the Harvard Business Review that was co-authored with my friend Hal Hershfield, who teaches at UCLA. It's called “Four Ways to Adapt to an Aging Workforce”.

This includes things like offering flexible working arrangements and certain ergonomic changes.

It says: We recognize that older workers have value.

Are there things older workers could or should do that could help change perceptions of lockouts and succession?

Do what you can to contribute. I know it sounds so silly and obvious, but making the effort to help your peers mentor is a very rewarding way to contribute.

When a younger person sees an older person openly giving back or helping the younger generation, the older person is seen even more positively than when a middle-aged or younger person does the same.

Will we see less age discrimination in the workplace and why should we?

I am optimistic: whoever lives will grow old. And whether it's in your workplace, in your community, or in your family, showing intergenerational empathy goes a long way.

(Video) Age Discrimination Law Explained by an Employment Lawyer


Does ageism still exist in the workplace? ›

Ageism in the workplace is an alarmingly common problem. Not only do 62 percent of workers 50 and above believe older workers face age discrimination, but over 93 percent assert that ageism in the workplace is a regular occurrence.

How common is age discrimination in the workplace? ›

Twenty percent said they were passed over for a job because of their age, and almost 10 percent said they were fired due to their age. And a national AARP poll found that 78 percent of workers age 50 or older said they've seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

What is the success rate of age discrimination? ›

How difficult is it to win a case? Like any other discrimination case, ageism lawsuits can be challenging to win. At the England and Wales employment tribunals, the success rate of such cases in 2021 was around 2%, according to data compiled by the law firm GQ Littler.

Does age discrimination exist? ›

Age discrimination is alive and well in the digital age, despite 50 years of laws intended to protect older Americans' right to work. In fact, it's thriving, with 20,857 such complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016 alone.

Where is ageism most common? ›

Ageism can be particularly prevalent in the workplace, where it can affect everything from your financial security to your mental health. According to a 2020 survey, 78 percent of older workers either witnessed or experienced age discrimination while at work.

At what age does ageism generally begin? ›

If you've been in the workforce for a while, the chances are good that you've seen or experienced ageism in the workplace—as two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 have, according to AARP. People often think it's most prevalent for employees 50 or older, but it can start even earlier.

Can age discrimination be justified? ›

Justification. Age discrimination is allowed if it can be objectively justified. Here, the burden is on the employer and it must be able to show that its actions, or the provision, criterion or practice complained about, was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

What is the fastest growing type of employment discrimination? ›

Age Discrimination

Age discrimination—discrimination against someone over 40 years old—is one of the fastest-growing examples of discrimination in the workplace today.

Why is age discrimination hard to prove? ›

Ageism or discrimination based on the employee's age is still one of the biggest issues that American workers deal with on a daily basis. Although this type of bias has been around for as long as other types of workplace discrimination, ageism can be harder to prove because it can often be subtle and hard to recognize.

Is it hard to sue for age discrimination? ›

The process of suing your employer for age discrimination can be complex, lengthy, and time-consuming. In most cases, you will need an employment lawyer to represent you and help you achieve the best outcome.

What is the 80% rule in discrimination? ›

The rule states that companies should be hiring protected groups at a rate that is at least 80% of that of white men. For example, if a firm has hired 100 white men in their last hiring cycle but only hired 50 women, then the company can be found in violation of the 80% rule.

How can we solve age discrimination in the workplace? ›

That's why we put together this list of five things you can start doing now to keep ageism out of your workplace.
  1. Discrimination and Diversity Training.
  2. Put Policies in Place and Enforce Them.
  3. Reward Based on Performance, Not Tenure.
  4. Start in the Hiring/Interview Process.
  5. Don't Approach Layoffs Based on Age or Pay.

What are the 3 types of ageism? ›

These forms were categorized into three groups: (1) exposure to ageist messages, (2) ageism in interpersonal interactions, and (3) internalized ageism (personally held beliefs about aging and older people).

What are examples of reverse ageism? ›

If two candidates have equivocal qualifications and experience, but one is younger, using their young age as a reason to not hire them would be an example of reverse ageism.”

Who does ageism affect the most? ›

Ageism can apply to discrimination against any age, old or young, but most prominently affects older individuals.

How common is ageism in America? ›

More than 9 of 10 adults ages 50 to 80 years in the nationally representative NPHA sample reported experiencing 1 or more forms of everyday ageism regularly.

Which age group experiences the most ageism? ›

This study found everyday ageism to be prevalent among US adults ages 50 to 80 years.

What does ageism look like in the workplace? ›

Common signs of ageism in the workplace include younger, less qualified employees receiving better opportunities and promotions; older employees getting unevenly laid off and excluded from activities; and others assuming they do not understand technology.

Why does age discrimination start at 40? ›

This is because age discrimination is most prevalent among older workers, which are often replaced by younger individuals in the workplace. For this reason, state laws specifically protect workers from retaliation or discrimination only if they are over the age of 40.

What are ageist comments at work? ›

ageism is common in their workplace. The harassment must have the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Can you fire someone because they are too old? ›

Age Discrimination in California – "Can I be fired for being too old?" If you are 40 years old or older, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you based on your age. Age discrimination for individuals 40 and over is a violation of both California and federal employment discrimination laws.

Can you be refused a job because of age? ›

The Equality Act 2010 says you mustn't be discriminated against because of your age. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful. If you've experienced unlawful discrimination, you may be able to do something about it.

What is indirect age discrimination? ›

Indirect age discrimination in employment occurs when an employer imposes, or proposes to impose, a condition, requirement or practice and: The condition, requirement or practice is not reasonable in all the circumstances.

Are older workers discriminated against? ›

Age discrimination exists in the workplace.

Research shows that about two in three adults age 50-plus in the labor force (62%) think older workers face discrimination in the workplace today based on age.

What is the success rate of EEOC complaints? ›

A: The EEOC has a very high success rate when it comes to court decisions, reaching favorable outcomes in nearly 96% of all district court cases stemming from EEOC complaints.

What is the most common discrimination claim? ›

Race based charges are the most common, but sex, disability, and age charges are not far behind. Religion and color based charges are much less common.

Is it hard to prove discrimination at work? ›

Proving employment discrimination can often be difficult because evidence of discrimination tends to be hard to come by. However, there are a few ways wronged employees can make their claims in court and get their case in front of a jury.

How easy is it to win a discrimination lawsuit? ›

The chances of winning your discrimination case can vary dramatically depending on the particular circumstances you face. When a lot of evidence has accumulated against your employer, such as emails and history of discriminatory remarks in front of multiple witnesses, your chances of winning a lawsuit are higher.

How much is a discrimination lawsuit worth? ›

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the average settlement for employment discrimination claims is about $40,000. However, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, settlements or verdicts can climb to seven figures.

What are the 9 discriminatory grounds? ›

The Equal Status Acts 2000-2018 ('the Acts') prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods and services, accommodation and education. They cover the nine grounds of gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion, and membership of the Traveller community.

What is unreasonable discrimination? ›

(1) Unreasonable discrimination means unjust discrimination or unreasonable preference or prejudice; and. (2) Rate means rate, fare, or charge.

What are the five prohibited grounds of discrimination? ›

3 (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been ...

Which is the most effective way to reduce discrimination at the workplace? ›

How to Prevent Race and Color Discrimination in the Workplace. Respect cultural and racial differences in the workplace. Be professional in conduct and speech. Refuse to initiate, participate, or condone discrimination and harassment.

What is the root cause of ageism? ›

On a cultural scale, two factors tend to make a society more ageist: a scarcity of resources and the percentage of older people in the population. When money, food, healthcare, or housing are limited, competition for these resources increases.

What are the roots of ageism? ›

According to this theory, ageism is derived from the desire of the young and middle-aged groups to distinguish themselves from and elevate themselves above the old age group in order to create a positive unique identity based on their own age group.

What are the 4 sources of ageism? ›

They are: personal ageism, institutional ageism, intentional ageism, unintentional ageism.

What percentage of people are affected by ageism? ›

Globally, 1 in 2 people are ageist against older people and in Europe, younger people report more perceived ageism than other age groups. Ageism remains largely invisible despite its wide reach and negative impact on individuals and society.

How do offices deal with ageism? ›

That's why we put together this list of five things you can start doing now to keep ageism out of your workplace.
  1. Discrimination and Diversity Training.
  2. Put Policies in Place and Enforce Them.
  3. Reward Based on Performance, Not Tenure.
  4. Start in the Hiring/Interview Process.
  5. Don't Approach Layoffs Based on Age or Pay.

Why are people not retiring? ›

Working longer benefits your health.

For some, it's the financial and lifestyle benefits that lead them to choose to never retire in the traditional sense. For others, it's the proven health and wellness benefits.

Why are older people going back to work? ›

The Joblist data show that more than half (52%) of those quietly returning were happy to be going back to work, 42% even said they were excited to clock back in on the job. Similar to younger workers, retirees heading back to work were looking for flexibility. The vast majority (79%) wanted to work part-time.

What is the average age when people stop working? ›

Yes, the average retirement age is 61, but many non-retired people expect to work until age 66. Also, many retirees go back to work. Some work part time, while others pursue a second career.

Can ageism be positive? ›

Age-based prejudice is rooted in stereotypes, both positive and negative (Palmore, 1999). Positive stereotypes (e.g., kind, cute, or wise) may appear to be empathetic, but they are actually paternalistic in nature and support ageist behaviors, which can be detrimental to older adults.

What are some examples of everyday ageism? ›

Telling a woman she's “too old” to wear certain styles or outfits (particularly ones that are considered “sexy.”) "Anti-aging" products and services. Praising older people by comparing them to younger ones: "You look good for [your age]," "You're young at heart.” “Are you really that old?

What is the solution of age discrimination? ›

Ensure that all line managers, supervisors and those with responsibility for recruitment are aware that age should not be used as a factor in the selection decision. Avoid the use of age limits or age ranges in advertisements as well as language that implies age restrictions.

What to do when you are being squeezed out at work? ›

Whatever the reason, if you're being pushed out, here are the things you should (and shouldn't) do.
  1. Find Out Why. ...
  2. Reframe the Situation. ...
  3. Calculate Your ROI. ...
  4. Document Everything. ...
  5. Think Carefully Before Turning Down Voluntary Severance. ...
  6. Take the High Road. ...
  7. Cover Your Bases.
Aug 31, 2022


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