Age Discrimination at Work: Could You Be a Victim?

You've worked hard all of your life and had a rewarding career. Now, you suddenly find yourself out of work and can't seem to land a new job. Is the tight job market to blame or could you be a victim of age discrimination? Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference, but if you're middle age or older, you might have to consider the possibility that your many years of experience are actually being held against you.

Why Age Discrimination in Employment Exists
Age discrimination in employment is a common problem today, as many older job applicants are being passed over in favor of their younger counterparts. In some cases, the less experienced applicants may command lower salaries, are easier to train, and have lower health care costs. They also have more years of productivity ahead of them. All of these factors can make them more employable.

How Age Discrimination in Employment Practices Presents Itself
Age discrimination in hiring is often conveyed through subtle language choices and preferences, so you'll probably have to read between the lines to identify the problem. Employers who practice age discrimination in the workplace may word their job descriptions in such a way as to disqualify older people and discourage them from even applying for the position. One common example is a company that won't hire people who've been unemployed for more than 6 months. When you consider the fact that older folks typically take a lot longer to get a new job than their younger counterparts, this can mean that your age can ultimately take you out of the running. Other businesses may advertise that they'll only hire currently employed applicants. This also weeds out people who've lost their jobs, including a large number of older workers.

Fighting Back Against Age Discrimination in Hiring
You may suspect that you're a victim of age discrimination in hiring, but proving the accusation can be quite challenging. This doesn't mean you have to accept the unfair treatment, though. If you're interested in a job but don't qualify because you're out of work now, you might send in your resume to apply anyway. If you get a negative response and you believe your age is to blame, you can call or write to the hiring manager and plead your case. Be sure to point out the qualifications you bring to the position and mention your concerns that they're being unfair to your age group.

You might also explore the laws against age discrimination that exist in your state and consider filing a formal complaint. You can check out the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) website for more information. Keep in mind that bringing a lawsuit against a company can be quite expensive and time intensive, and the odds of winning your case are very low. Nonetheless, you can still use your situation to raise awareness about age discrimination issues and to advocate for fairer policies for people of all ages.


American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). "Unemployed Need Not Apply." 17 July 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2012.

Noguchi, Yuki. "Age Discrimination Suits Jump, But Wins Are Elusive." National Public Radio (NPR). 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2012.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). "How to File A Charge of Employment Discrimination." N.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2012.