The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was passed in 1967. It protects workers aged 40 and over from discrimination in all acts of employment, including hiring, promotion, training, compensation and termination. Despite this law having been on the books for 44 years age discrimination is rampant and has become even more so with the recent recession. Cases of age discrimination being filed with the EEOC have increased at a high rate and topped 25,000 cases last year.
That, however, is not the entire picture of age discrimination. My experience has been that there is rampant age discrimination within the “over 40” segment of the population. In 1967 40 years old seemed really old to many people. Today not as much. But as the experience of many of my friends and colleagues has shown it is much more difficult to get a job when you are 50 years old versus 40. And it is even harder at age 60 and near impossible at age 70. (Not everyone wants to wear a blue vest and be a greeter.)
Companies can blatently discriminate on the basis of age as long as they hire someone over the age of 40. By hiring someone over 40 you are not participating in age discrimination based on the letter of the law, even though you made a conscious decision not to hire the 50 year old or the 60 year old just due to their age. They may even be the more qualified candidate, but due to the company’s perceptions of the abilities or the costs associated with age, the 50 or 60 year old is not hired.
In that case what is that person to do? They cannot go and claim age discrimination if the person that was hired is over the age of 40. According to the law no discrimination exists. There is no protection for older “older workers” from younger “older workers.” So we do not see these incidents of age discrimination showing up in the statistics of age discrimination. But if the experience of my friends is any measure it is there. Being 60 and hunting for a job is an arduous task filled with many disappointments as you come in “second place.”
What can be done? Hiring companies can make a decision to hire based upon qualifications and not age. On any level! That, however, may be optimistic. On an individual level, the job candidate can be sure that they are not stuck in the past. They can make sure their knowledge and skill sets are as current as possible. What you knew three years ago is now OLD data. You can also make sure your physical abilities are as sharp as they can be. Work on your health, trim the waistline and work on the energy.
If that doesn’t get you a job, then think about what I said yesterday and reinvent yourself. Think different profession. Think entreprenuer.
Sign up for free HR Solutions updates via email