Age discrimination in the workplace is the practice of excluding applicants for employment or advancement (promotion) based on their age. Baby Boomers - and even those years younger - may be shocked to discover they are considered "too old" to be employed. Even if a company has a written job application process which expressly states that it is against age discrimination, these written guidelines can be violated.
Workers may be fired for reasons that don't seem to be tied to age even though they have experienced repeated instances of age bias.
Don't assume that being a hard worker will provide protection. Employees who have a steady work record, rarely (if ever) call in sick and have shown superior progress in meeting or exceeding work goals may still be demoted or fired. Perhaps they simply aren't promoted when expected.
Age discrimination in the workplace can often be hard to prove, especially if employers don't make obvious statements which violate company policy.
Obviously, if an employer says - on the record - that he or she feels an employee is "too old" for a particular job then it is clear that age has played a major role in determining an employee's job tasks and duties.
But what about subtle signs that age bias may be at work? It is hard to prove age discrimination when an employer won't come out and admit it but may provide nonverbal cues or simply pass over an older employee for a promotion or desirable position in the company.
What is even more surprising is how early age discrimination can start. While many people may assume it only strikes employees in their 40's or 50's, in some professions those who are in their 30's can be considered too old. This is especially true in fast paced occupations such as advertising, computer technology and in jobs where a youthful appearance is considered an asset.
Luckily, there are ways to detect age bias as well as solutions for dealing with it.
Employees must face the fact that they have to be pro-active to stay employed when age bias is part of their workplace. They should maintain a resume' which is not only updated weekly or monthly but proves that they've learned new tasks, taken special courses and made other efforts to stay in the loop.
This can help counteract any negative feelings employers have when they see signs that employees are growing older. Being on top of job duties is a necessity in fighting age discrimination.
Never forget that it is illegal for employers to ask for an employee's age. Of course, with the internet being so much a part of people's lives, employers may make attempts to track down information about age.
Play it safe when networking or using social sites online and avoid listing birthdays or year of birth. It can be a judgment call whether employees want to make efforts to look younger but it is certainly not required - nor should it be necessary.
It doesn't hurt to let employers know (tactfully) that older workers have been statistically proven to have strong work ethics, high productivity and other assets that dispel myths about growing older and working.
Those who are 50 and up tend to have fewer sick days, on average, and don't tend to abuse vacation time, or time off from work.
If employees are on good to excellent terms with fellow employees, they may be provided with confidential information.
Peers may be willing to come forward as witnesses and provide written confirmation that they saw or heard something that indicates age discrimination is at play.
After all, they are going to get older, too, so appealing to their self-interest could work (although, admittedly, this is a long shot).
It is always a good idea to become familiar with laws dealing with age discrimination in employment.
While it may be hard to prove age bias, employees should know that they have the right to file charges if they feel they have been treated unfairly.
Finally, when seeking work, consider applying at companies which have a proven track record of hiring - and keeping - older workers.
There are some jobs which are specifically tailored to older workers and where respect, decent pay and the potential to work many years in that particular workplace is a distinct possibility.