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Subtle signs of age discrimination in the workplace

As workers reach middle age, they face a new challenge: stereotypes. Despite being outlawed, age discrimination remains a real problem in America. Just how prevalent is it?

In one study cited by the Society for Human Resource Management, 56% of older workers were either laid off or left jobs under circumstances that suggest they were forced out. Illegal age discrimination can have a significant impact on the livelihood of affected workers.

Possible signs of age discrimination

Age discrimination is not always obvious. In many cases, it is a collection of smaller behaviors that, when viewed together, paint a picture of age discrimination directed toward older workers. Some examples of potential signs of age discrimination, in part via the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP, include:

  • A company laying off older workers while simultaneously hiring younger ones
  • An older worker being directed to train younger people in their current job duties
  • Responsibilities, such as certain accounts, being abruptly shifted to other workers
  • Job postings that say they’re only looking for “digital natives”
  • Raises no longer being given to an older worker
  • Sudden poor reviews for an older worker with a positive history
  • The assigning of new goals that are extremely difficult for anyone to realistically reach

As you can see, a lot of these signs are circumstantial, and in and of themselves do not necessarily prove age discrimination.

Firing or forcing out workers – or even screening out job applicants – solely because they are in their 40s or older is illegal and can be grounds for a lawsuit. Yet some companies continue to engage in the behavior. These decisions ultimately make things harder on some of the most experienced, knowledgeable and skilled workers out there.

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