We might want to believe that discrimination in the workplace has vanished over the past century. Today’s employees are aware and well educated on workforce inclusivity, but age still separates us all on the daily basis. If you are a young graduate seeking job opportunities your age might be mistaken as a lack of knowledge and skills and if you are a 50-year-old expert – your perceptions might be branded outdated and irrelevant. This is known as ageism and it is absolutely crucial to be addressed.
What Does The Law Say About Age Discrimination At Work?
A study made by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) showed that 64% of people have faced age discrimination in the workplace with 58% of them being over 50 years old. So, what is ageism actually, how do we recognise it, and what are the best ways to deal with it?
Let’s begin with some legal concepts. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was established in 1967. It states that any form of age discrimination during employment, hiring, firing or promotion is prohibited. One important side note – companies with less than 20 employees are exempted from ADEA.
Ageism might be hard to recognise as it depends on many personal factors. For example, if the younger worker gets a promotion and higher salary in comparison to an older one it is often perceived that the young employee didn’t deserve it. There is always a task to find that fine line between fairness and discrimination.
Examples Of Ageism At Work
- Mocking and making unfriendly comments and jokes about the age. As an example, it could be teasing about retirement, slow typing physical inabilities etc.
- Learning and training opportunities that are given only to young members. This comes with the assumption that older people are already on their “way out” and do not want/need to learn something new.
- Declined time off as younger employees might not have kids or other responsibilities.
- Being left out of important meetings and communicational activities with the rest of the team.
Let’s be honest and agree that fighting stereotypes is a tough task. Unfortunately, our brains are created to make assumptions for a quick decision-making process, regardless of it being for the better or worse. But there are some ways that we can minimise this problem.
How To Deal With Ageism At Work?
- Challenge your assumptions. Don’t jump to conclusions about what other people can or cannot do, want, or do not want. Communicate freely and openly. Also, avoid bringing up age-related issues. Do not assume that older people need more attention or that you owe something to them. Fight the old stereotypes and evaluate people on your own model.
- If you feel that you might be the victim of ageism – do not give up. Invest in your growth and adapt to continuous changes. Read and stay up to date with the newest trends and innovations, be present and leave the “good old days” behind.
- Treat younger employees with the same respect and validation as the rest of the team. Grow together with them and you will be surprised with the amazing results that it could bring.
Whether you are young, old, experienced or just starting your journey with passion – you are important and deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. We carry many different attributes and skills besides our baggage and numbers on Identity cards. An inclusive workplace is good for every part of the company. Younger employees can learn from experience, elders can learn from innovation and company -enjoy the amazing results and diverse out-of-the-box thinking and effective collaboration. Let’s not forget – age is just a number!