Workers in their 40s — and above — facing workplace discrimination

In spite of state and federal laws against discrimination, older workers still face on-the-job bias.

Our country's population is getting older. We are now living longer than our parents and grandparents did, with the average life expectancy being about 80. The need for a bigger retirement "nest egg" for that longer life translates into an extended employment expectancy as well. Many employees are waiting until older to retire than they did just a generation or two ago. As a result, many corporate workforces consist at least in part of workers of middle-age and above.

Of course, there are many benefits to having more seasoned workers on your payroll. Older employees come with experience, education, job skills, decision-making abilities and perspective that younger workers might not possess. Some employers don't realize the many positives brought by those 40 and above. That lack of foresight can result in bias against older job-seekers and workers.

What can't employers do?

State-level and federal laws prohibit bias from disproportionately negatively impacting older employees. Even so, discrimination still abounds throughout the hiring, working and firing/laying off processes. Sometimes older workers simply aren't invited in to apply or interview for positions even though they are just as qualified, skilled, and educated - or even more so - than similarly situated younger workers.

There are some key signs of age-related bias on the job as well. These include:

  • Laying off older workers or offering them buyouts in favor of "fresh blood" for the company - this happens often enough to actually have a term of art, and is known as "culture fit"
  • Reassigning older workers to unpleasant tasks or taking key duties away from them - if this happens enough, it might indicate "constructive termination," an attempt to make the workplace so intolerable a worker quits
  • Hearing unpleasant comments or jokes about age, hobbies, etc., of older workers - calling a middle-aged man "Grandpa" or an older woman "Grandma," even when not meant in a necessarily mean-spirited way, is still discriminatory and can be disturbing to workers themselves
  • Failing to recognize hard work of older workers through merit increases when it had been done in the past, and other workers are still being rewarded with raises
  • Suddenly and overwhelmingly negative performance reviews when they've always been positive in the past

Have you been the victim of age discrimination?

If you suspect that negative employment-related actions or decisions impacting you were motivated by your age, you may have a legal cause of action. Reach out to an experienced employment discrimination attorney in your area to learn more about your rights and options. In the San Francisco, California, area, contact the Law Offices of Daniel Feder online or by calling 415-391-9476.