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Employers undervalue experience, discriminate against older workers

Written by Diane Archer

There’s a lot to be said for experience. But, in the workplace, experience too often lacks the value it deserves. An AARP Foundation report shows how employers undervalue experience and discriminate against older workers.

To be clear, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes age discrimination in the workplace illegal. It is designed to protect people 40 and older from discrimination in three instances: during the hiring process, when it comes to promotion and in decisions about whether to let someone go. It applies to companies with 20 or more employees. But, our judicial system has made age discrimination very hard to prove, most recently, in Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

More than three in five older workers say they have witnessed or experienced workplace age discrimination. More than nine in ten of them say it is common and, of those, nearly four in ten say it is very common.

An even higher percentage of unemployed older workers (74 percent), female older workers(64 percent), and Black older workers (77 percent) have witnessed or experienced workplace age discrimination.

The sense among older workers is that age discrimination in the workplace begins at age 50.

People experience discrimination based on their age in a variety of forms. The most common form of age discrimination reported or experienced (16 percent) is in not being hired because of your age. The next most common form of age discrimination is in the form of speech (15 percent).Workers say they hear ageist comments from both their bosses and their co-workers. More than one in ten older workers (12 percent) report not getting ahead because of of their age.

Older adults are not protected against age discrimination to the same extent as people protected against discrimination based on race, sex, national origin or religion. More than nine in ten older workers want and should have parity for age discrimination with laws protecting other groups. They want stronger age discrimination laws. As it is, the Supreme Court, when it let stand a circuit court ruling narrowing the ADEA’s scope, has made it harder to show age discrimination than other types of discrimination.

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