Despite being illegal for more than five decades, older workers continue to face discrimination at their job. In recent years, age-related discrimination complaints have made up just over one-fifth of all charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), making it one of the most frequent types of complaints.
Age discrimination is not always obvious. Actions an employer takes that seem harmless may actually be problematic. Here are four examples of subtle age-related discrimination.
1. Jokes and comments about your age
Occasional friendly ribbing at the workplace doesn’t always equate to discrimination. But when those comments are frequent and seem to be targeted at yourself and other older workers, that may be harassment – and harassment is a form of discrimination. In addition to verbal comments, things like gestures or drawings can also be harassment.
2. College-only recruiting
This one comes via a report from the Society for Human Resource Management. If a business is looking to recruit new employees and exclusively targeting college campuses, that might qualify as discrimination. Remember, federal laws protect not just current employees, but job applicants as well.
3. Raises go extinct, reviews get worse
In a vacuum, neither of these actions qualifies as age discrimination. Taken in context however, they may be worrisome. If your performance hasn’t changed – or has even improved – yet your reviews drop off and raises dry up, without explanation, that might set off some alarm bells.
4. Code words in job postings
Sometimes companies use terms that suggest they’re looking for younger workers in order to avoid explicitly mentioning age. That could include postings saying the company is looking for a “digital native,” and “energetic” person with potential, or someone with a maximum amount of years of experience. These types of terms can give the impression a company isn’t looking to hire older workers.
If you believe you’ve been harassed or discriminated against at work because of your age, consider reaching out to an employment attorney. They can review your situation and help determine potential next steps.