Even though the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted over 40 years ago, a significant portion of workers over the age of 40 report experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Those workers over 40 looking for work often have a more difficult time than their younger counterparts. With an aging population and a growing number of people working past traditional retirement age, addressing age bias is more important than ever.

The ADEA protects individuals 40 and older from discrimination based on age. However, despite these legal protections, age discrimination persists and can be challenging to prove. Although a substantial number of discrimination charges are filed annually, a relatively small percentage involve age, and even fewer are successful. In fiscal year 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 11,500 charges alleging age discrimination. Of those, only about 15% resulted in merit resolutions.

Subtle Biases and Real-World Examples

Age discrimination can be subtle. Employers likely won’t blatantly comment on an applicant’s age or express a preference for younger workers. But they might unconsciously screen out older applicants based on assumptions about their agility, adaptability, or commitment.

The article highlights real-world cases of age discrimination:

  • Cheryl Fillekes vs. Google: Fillekes, a systems engineer, applied for several Google positions but wasn’t hired. She believes she was screened out due to her age, citing Google’s younger workforce compared to national averages.
  • EEOC vs. Texas Roadhouse: The EEOC found that Texas Roadhouse denied front-of-house positions to applicants over 40. The company settled the lawsuit for $12 million and agreed to modify its hiring practices.
  • Spirit AeroSystems Layoffs: The company laid off employees with higher healthcare costs, which often correlated with older workers. A lawsuit was filed alleging age discrimination, as the layoffs aimed to reduce health insurance expenses.

How to Avoid Age Bias

By following these steps and promoting a culture of age inclusion, employers can create a more diverse and qualified workforce.