Understanding Age Discrimination and Your Protections

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Discover legal protections, strategies & resources to combat age discrimination in the workplace. Learn about the stereotypes and other forms of ageism that may affect older workers.

Age discrimination is a serious issue that many older workers face in the workplace. It's important to recognize and protect the rights of older people in today's multigenerational workforces.

This guide will delve into common age stereotypes and how they impact older adults at work. We'll also explore internalized ageism, which can affect both younger and older employees alike.

The EEOC has regulations to stop age-based discrimination, however many HR teams may not be familiar with them or might not put them into practice properly. We'll discuss what employers can do to create an inclusive environment for all workers regardless of their age.

We'll also review the ADEA, a statute that provides protection against discrimination in employment on account of age. We'll examine how this law applies to long-term unemployed individuals who may face additional challenges when re-entering the workforce.

By reading this post, you will gain valuable insights into why protecting older workers is crucial for creating diverse and thriving workplaces. You will also learn practical strategies that organizations can use to promote equal opportunities for all employees regardless of their age.

Table of Contents:


Understanding Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is the practice of treating someone differently because of their age. Older individuals are especially prone to facing discrimination in its most extreme forms, from subtle microaggressions to outright exclusion from resources and opportunities.

Older individuals, particularly those over 40 years old, are the most commonly targeted victims of ageism.

Ageism takes many forms, including stereotyping and prejudice.

  • Stereotyping involves making assumptions about a person’s abilities or characteristics based solely on their age.

  • Prejudice occurs when an individual has negative feelings towards another person due to their age. This may manifest itself as hostility or exclusionary behavior towards older individuals.

Both types of age-based discrimination are deemed unlawful and detrimental in the US.

The Fair Housing Act and other federal laws offer legal protection to those aged 40+ from age discrimination in the workplace, as well as protecting seniors 65+ from housing discrimination. Additionally, programs such as Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) have been designed with older individuals specifically in mind.

With these legal protections in place, older Americans can be confident that they are not subjected to any form of age-based prejudice or stereotyping. 

If you experience or witness age discrimination, speak up.

  • File a complaint with your employer's human resources department and consult an employment law attorney.

  • Seek advice from support groups of like-minded individuals who have been through similar situations.

  • Document discriminatory behavior in detail to build evidence for future use if needed.

  • Educate yourself on anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII and network with other professionals that have successfully navigated these issues.

  • Stay abreast of industry trends so you remain competitive regardless of how many years you've been in the workforce. 

Age discrimination can have far-reaching consequences, so it's essential to be aware of its various forms in order to safeguard oneself from such bias. To effectively combat age discrimination, it is essential to be aware of the various forms in which it can manifest.

Types of Age Discrimination

It can take many forms, from employers refusing to hire older workers to government programs that provide inadequate benefits for seniors. To address age discrimination and ensure equity, it is essential to be aware of the various forms it can take and their potential effects.

Disparate impact, a form of age discrimination, is when certain policies or practices that appear neutral have an outsized detrimental effect on those in specific age brackets. An example of disparate impact is when an employer has a requirement that job applicants aged 40 or above must have at least five years' experience, which could disadvantage those who may not have had the chance to acquire such extensive knowledge due to prior layoffs or career changes.

Discriminatory decisions based solely on a person's age rather than their aptitude and capabilities is another type of ageism. This could include:

  • Denying promotions or pay raises because an employee is viewed as "over the hill"

  • Arbitrarily setting minimum or maximum cut-off dates for hiring purposes

  • Offering fewer opportunities for training and development due to the belief that employees are already too experienced

Age harassment is another form of illegal workplace behavior related specifically to aging issues like wrinkles, gray hair, hearing loss, etc., even if there isn't any tangible harm caused by these comments (such as lost wages). Age harassment often takes place in jokes about getting old but can also include derogatory remarks about physical appearance and other characteristics associated with aging.

Finally, there's reverse-ageism — the assumption that younger generations are inherently better suited for certain jobs than those over a certain chronological threshold simply because they're younger (e.g., assuming millennials know more about technology).

Reverse-ageism can lead employers into overlooking qualified candidates who happen to be over 40 just because they don't fit within what's seen as the "ideal" demographic profile for success at work today – something which would constitute illegal discriminatory behavior under federal law

It's important for everyone — employers included — to recognize how damaging each type of age discrimination can be both professionally and personally, so that we can create fairer workplaces where everyone has equal access regardless of their chronological age.

Age discrimination can take many forms, from subtle biases to overt acts of exclusion. Conversely, there are laws in place to protect against and tackle age discrimination in the workplace.

Legal Protections Against Age Discrimination

Individuals should be aware of the protections offered by federal and state laws that guard against age discrimination, a serious issue in the workplace. The ADEA of 1967 prohibits employers from treating employees or job applicants who are 40 and over unfavorably. The ADEA applies to all facets of the employment process, such as recruitment, termination, advancement opportunities, salary and other benefits. 

Employers may not pose inquiries relating to a job applicant's age during the interview, whether directly or by inquiring about how long they have been employed in certain roles or when they obtained their college degree. Additionally, employers cannot advertise positions with language indicating any preference based on an individual’s age such as “seeking young professionals only."

The EEOC allows for specific exemptions from the ADEA's prohibition of mandatory retirement ages, including for:

  • High-level executives over 65 years old
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Tenured university faculty members

In these cases, bona fide occupational qualifications related to job performance capabilities associated with aging may be used to justify setting a mandatory retirement age.

To ensure that age discrimination is appropriately addressed, legal protections are essential. By understanding strategies for combating age discrimination, we can take proactive steps to protect ourselves from this form of injustice.

Strategies for Combating Age Discrimination

If age-based bias is experienced in the job, there are techniques to tackle it.

Grasping your entitlements as per the law is a must. Age discrimination is illegal under federal and state laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). These laws guard individuals aged 40 or more from being subjected to age-based prejudice.

Once you know your legal rights, document any instances of age discrimination that occur at work. Make sure to save emails, text messages, and other evidence that may be used as proof if needed later on.

You should also speak with trusted coworkers who may have witnessed or experienced similar issues at work. Collecting data, such as emails and text messages, in addition to gathering testimonies from colleagues who have experienced similar scenarios can bolster a case if one decides to take legal action against an employer for discriminatory conduct.

You can submit a grievance to the EEOC or your state's labor department if you feel like your boss has breached age-related discrimination regulations in the work environment. The EEOC can investigate and, if warranted, take legal action against employers for age discrimination violations.

Your state’s department of labor may also provide resources for filing complaints about age discrimination as well as assistance during mediation between employers and employees involved in disputes related to these matters.

Overcoming age discrimination can be challenging, yet there are ways to help mitigate it and resources available to support those affected. Resources for dealing with age discrimination will provide further assistance in addressing the issue and taking steps towards protecting your rights.

Resources for Dealing with Age Discrimination

Experiencing age discrimination can be an emotionally challenging ordeal, but there are organizations available to provide support and guidance. Support groups can be a refuge for those dealing with age discrimination, offering an opportunity to share their experiences without fear of judgement or reprisal.

These support groups may also offer legal advice on how best to handle the situation and direct members towards other helpful resources such as counseling services. Additionally, many local organizations have established legal assistance programs that specialize in providing free or low-cost legal representation for those facing age discrimination in the workplace or elsewhere.

Individuals may also benefit from seeking out national organizations dedicated to combating ageism and fighting against discriminatory practices.

For example, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is an organization devoted to advocating for older adults' rights while promoting financial security and health benefits specifically tailored towards seniors’ needs. The National Council on Aging additionally offers resources for seniors, such as educational materials and webinars that cover topics ranging from housing options to long-term care planning.

FAQs in Relation to Age Discrimination

What is the article of age discrimination?

Age discrimination is a form of illegal discrimination based on age. Discrimination based on age, which is unlawful, may take the form of treating individuals or groups adversely and less favorably than others due to their age.

Discrimination due to age can take place in job opportunities, housing situations, educational institutions and other areas of life which are legally safeguarded. Examples include refusing to hire someone over the age of 40 or denying access to housing due to a person’s advanced years. Such practices are unlawful and those who experience it should seek legal help as soon as possible.

What are examples of age discrimination?

Age discrimination is the unfair or unequal treatment of individuals based on their age. Examples include:

  • Refusing to hire someone because they are too old
  • Denying promotions or pay raises due to a person’s age
  • Requiring older workers to retire earlier than younger employees
  • Imposing stricter job performance standards for older workers compared with younger ones

Age discrimination can also manifest in subtle ways such as making jokes about an employee's age or giving preferential treatment to younger colleagues. Employers should strive to ensure that all workers are not subjected to age discrimination.

What are the biggest age discrimination cases?

The biggest age discrimination cases include the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc., which held that an employer cannot refuse to hire or promote individuals over 40 years of age; and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) case of Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, where a court found that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for older workers who are affected by age-related disabilities or impairments.

Courts have ruled against employers for denying employees' requests for flexible work schedules based on their ages in cases such as O’Connor v Orkin Exterminating Company and Den Hartog v Wasatch Academy et al., respectively.

What is an example of age discrimination in society?

Age discrimination in society is when people are treated differently or disadvantaged due to their age. This can manifest itself through stereotypes, exclusion from opportunities and resources, unequal pay for equal work, reduced access to healthcare services and employment benefits, as well as the denial of promotions or advancement based on age.

Age-based bias can take both direct and oblique forms, such as refusing to hire someone over a certain age or setting standards that disproportionately limit the opportunities of older people. Employers of 20 or more staff are not allowed, by federal law, to treat anyone 40 and above unfavorably due to their age.


Age discrimination is a pervasive issue that can be difficult to combat, but it's important to remember that there are resources available and strategies you can use. To achieve an equitable society, it is imperative that we join forces to eradicate age discrimination and ensure all individuals are treated with fairness regardless of their age.

Equipped with the right info, instruments, and assistance, we can guarantee that no one has to endure unfair treatment simply because of their age.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with HelpAdivsor.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at Mike@MyHelpAdvisor.com.

Read More
Man Meets With Insurance Counselor
Where can you find the best Medicare Part D prescription drug plans of 2024? We review some of the ...
Wife smiles with husband while visiting him in hospital bed
What is the best Supplement plan for Medicare in 2024? Depending on what type of health care costs ...
Smiling grandmother teaches granddaughter to play piano
Aetna and Mutual of Omaha are two leading insurance companies who offer Medicare Supplement Insurance ...