The ugly truth about ageism
While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes discriminating against anyone 40 or older illegal, the country is currently experiencing a rise in age discrimination claims as unemployed workers over 40 continue to have a difficult time finding new employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported a 17 percent rise in age discrimination complaints filed since 2007. In addition, the unemployment rate for those over 55 is at its highest since 1948. These figures clearly indicate that age discrimination is alive and well. To make matters worse, a 2009 Supreme Court decision (GROSS v. FBL FINANCIAL SERVICES, INC. No. 08-441), significantly increased the burden of proof required to win an age discrimination case.
Laurie McCann, a senior attorney at the AARP Foundation, has called age discrimination in hiring "the most under-reported form of discrimination". It’s also extremely difficult to prove. In most cases, when you are turned down for a job, you have no way of knowing if the employer hired someone younger than you. When it comes to terminations, especially when companies are implementing force reductions and mass layoffs, seniority is no longer a guarantee of surviving a layoff.
We already know that discrimination of any kind is wrong, so why is ageism so prevalent in this country? Part of the reason may be that our society as a whole does not consider this to be discriminating. Think about it—you would probably never make a racist or sexist remark to a co-worker, or comment about their religious practices, but it’s still considered acceptable to tease someone about their age. Until that attitude changes, age discrimination in the workplace will continue to be a problem.
Older workers can take steps to combat this by not playing into common stereotypes . One of the biggest myths about older workers is that they are less able to utilize technology, especially in areas such as social networking. Another good idea for those seeking employment is to remove things from your resume which reveal your age. For example, when listing your educational history, include any degrees or diplomas received but omit the dates. Even the most well intentioned recruiter may pass on a resume if they know the applicant is significantly older than others in the department they are hiring for. By removing clues to your age, you allow the person reviewing your resume to judge you solely on your work history, without age being a factor.
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