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What is ageism, and how might it affect you at work?

Federal law establishes numerous protected characteristics for those in the workplace. Companies cannot discriminate against individual employees based on their protected characteristics. Many of the highest-profile workplace discrimination have involved sex or racial discrimination.

However, age discrimination is one of the most pervasive forms of discrimination in the modern workplace, with hundreds of thousands of workers feelings the effects of age-based discrimination each year. When you understand ageism, you will have a better time fighting back if it affects you on the job.

What constitutes age discrimination?

Some youthful employees or applicants may feel like they face discrimination because a company wants someone with more experience than they have. Anti-discrimination laws technically only affect those who are 40 years old or older. Companies can maintain strict requirements for experience that preclude younger workers from certain positions without illegally discriminating.

However, they cannot prevent older workers from applying for jobs or from moving into new positions at the company simply because of their age. Age discrimination occurs when an employer considers someone’s age if they are 40 or older and makes an unfavorable employment decision as a result.

How does age discrimination affect older workers?

Age discrimination comes in several forms. Sometimes, age discrimination involves a company ignoring a hostile work environment. Younger coworkers may make inappropriate jokes at the expense of an older worker or may treat older employees differently. If the business does not seek to prevent such misconduct, the older workers affected may have grounds for a discrimination claim.

Age discrimination often comes directly from the company’s hierarchy. Older workers may find that they no longer receive consideration for promotions. They may have a tough time securing jobs at new companies because of their age. They may even lose out on certain opportunities, like inclusion on new projects, because of their age.