Discrimination comes in many forms and can target people for all kinds of protected characteristics. Working professionals over the age of 40 are at risk of facing age-related discrimination in the workplace or while looking for a new job.
Although logically, older workers have the potential for many more years of experience and could theoretically be valuable to companies, some businesses don’t like to hire older workers, promote them or keep them in highly visible positions.
Whether you have already experienced age discrimination in the workplace or you worry about it now that you’re showing signs of growing older, understanding why companies might discriminate against older workers can help you advocate for yourself.
Employers may assume older workers aren’t tech-savvy
Despite it having been many years since the digital revolution changed the scope and scale of the American workplace, employers still hold on to outdated ideas that only the young know much about technology.
The truth is that anyone can learn how to use software or new pieces of hardware with the right training. Highlighting both experience and education related to technology in your resume and interviews can help you overcome this particular hurdle.
Human resources and management team members may have internal biases
The younger the team members on the management and human resources teams within a company, the more likely they are to skew their hiring practices toward younger workers, possibly unintentionally.
As previously mentioned, concerns about tech skills may play a role. Additionally, the idea of someone needing to retire, even if such a decision would be decades off for that individual worker, might influence how someone decides on an outside applicant or internal promotion candidate.
Older workers often have a better idea of what they are actually worth
Between having years of experience and all the responsibilities that come from having a family and an established profession, older workers expect to command better wages and benefits when compared with their younger colleagues, which can increase staffing costs for companies.
When they want to keep prices low, companies may hire younger, less-experienced and therefore less expensive labor. There may also be a subconscious expectation that older workers could increase the cost of group health insurance plans, despite the fact that many adults over the age of 40 are healthy and require little to no medical care.
If you believe that age discrimination has prevented your promotion or kept you from getting a job, you may have the option of holding the company that discriminated against you accountable by taking legal action.