Age discrimination increasing as the pre-internet generation is denied skilled jobs

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As mid-career workers struggle to re-skill, it’s likely they are facing an additional barrier to employment, their age.

Leading questions on job applications may be to blame for employers identifying and avoiding hiring seniors, or more tellingly, those who grew up before the internet age, according to the Los Angeles Times‘ Lauren Rosenblatt.

Age discrimination is nothing new. Though less publicized than sex and racial discrimination, denying someone over 40 a job based strictly on age is against federal law. The LA Times used the opportunity of the 50th birthday of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to examine statistics showing how this “subtle” discrimination is shutting out a labor force via unproven stereotypes of seniors and their capabilities.

Yet 50 years later, applications still contain fields such as date of birth or high school education information, data points which could be red flags to employers.

The LA Times used the opportunity of the 50th birthday of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to examine statistics showing how this “subtle” discrimination is shutting out a labor force via unproven stereotypes of seniors and their capabilities.

Numbers from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission showed an uptick in age discrimination claims in 2016, up to 20,857. With the economy at what is considered full employment and a dearth in qualified applicants in a hot jobs market, the L.A. Times says seniors are attempting to fill in this employment gap. But 65% of older workers are reporting to the EEOC that employers are turning them away because of age.

How are employers “getting away” with this type of discrimination? The L.A. Times identified two leading trends in age bias:

  • The perception that older Americans are averse to technology is translated into coded language in job descriptions asking for “digital native” applicants. This type of employment narrative turns off “digital immigrants,” those who came of age before the rise of the internet.
  • Older women are more likely to experience the double insult of age discrimination and wage inequality. The article cites a 2015 study which said that women over age 49 were less likely than younger women to receive a callback. And if those women of a particular age land a job, they can expect to make 74% of what her male counterpart would make.

The white-hot jobs market is leaving employers with fewer options to fill their “middle-skill” and “high-skill” positions. This is a source of optimism, according to the report, as businesses have to turn to unconventional labor sources and consider more senior applicants.

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