Forty is the new 30, right? Not when it comes to hiring and firing. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal to fire or refuse to hire anyone 40 and over. Think it can’t happen to you or it’s something that only happens to people who are 65 and up?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
1 in 5 US workers is age 55 or higher.
The National Council on Aging estimates that in just two years 40% of Americans 55 or higher will be employed. As the number of older adults in the workplace continues to increase, we can expect the incidents of age discrimination will as well.
In a study conducted in 2013 by AARP,
64% of workers say they have “seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.”
Can we afford for this number to get larger?
If you’re over the “new thirty,” and have reason to believe you’re being treated differently because of your age, don’t sit back and hope it goes away. Those adverse actions could escalate, and you could end up losing your job. Here are several reasons you may be on the chopping block regardless of your abilities.
Age Discrimination: 5 Reasons You Were Fired Due to Your Age
Employers Believe You’re More Costly
You Are More Costly
You’re Not Hip
They Assume You Can’t/Won’t Grasp Tech
They Think You’re Retiring Soon
Your employer may assume that as you age, you will become more expensive to the company. Your health care expenses will go up, your aches and pains will increase, and you’ll be more prone to missing work. You may not be able to meet the physical demands of the job. Even sitting at a desk for extended periods of time could become uncomfortable.
If you have spent the better part of your life in an industry, chances are your salary reflects your experience. As an established employee your pay is a lot more expensive than a person right out of school. Employers can cut a significant portion of their labor costs if they fire experience and hire newbies.
Often employers dress this up by calling it “job elimination”- changing the name of the position, and hiring someone younger and less expensive. But if they fired you because of your age, you may have an age discrimination claim.
There are company cultures and industries that believe innovation is a youth-based talent, regardless of what studies like the Kauffman Foundation found. That research showed that the highest rate of entrepreneurship in America wasn’t Gen Y but ages 55-64. If your business is trying to attract younger employees, don’t be surprised if you’re given a seat far away from the HR department. Company culture is a big selling point these days and if your age doesn’t fit their idea of “tech cool,” you may find yourself unemployed.
In these cases, watch for a string of good reviews suddenly going awry. Most employers understand that age discrimination is illegal and so they begin to build a case against you that shows your performance is slipping.
Many companies are embracing electronic workflows and other ways to increase efficiencies using technology. There’s an assumption out there that the older you are, the less likely you are to embrace it. While this is not only incorrect, it is also illegal if you fire someone based on the belief they cannot adopt and use the tech based on their age.
If you, and other workers of similar ages, are excluded from training, it’s time to speak up and ask them why you’re being left out. Make a note of their response.
Have you ever heard of the “mommy track”? It’s a label (also illegal) that serves to pigeonhole employees and limit their advancement based on the fact that they are categorized as a mother, and so it is assumed their interests lie elsewhere.
There’s also a “retirement track.” Some employers may be unwilling to invest in your professional growth because they see you as just putting in your time for the next few years until you can jump in your RV and drive around the U.S. visiting your grandchildren. This stereotype is not only unfair, but it’s also illegal. Limiting your professional opportunities and offering packages to get you out of the office sooner rather than later may mean that you’ve been a victim of age discrimination.
If you’re over 40 and you believe your employer has acted unfairly towards you based on your age, you need to know that isn’t just the way things go. It could be illegal. View our free e-book entitled, “Wrongful Termination: When Firing Is Illegal” to learn more.