5 Signs of Age Discrimination

These signals may mean you’re a target at work

Five Signs You Face Age Discrimination, Are you being Targeted at work


Feel like there is a target on your back? Here are five signs that your job might be in jeopardy.

Age discrimination is becoming more common as a nation of working boomers grows older. Experts on career counseling and age discrimination picked five telltale signs to watch for.

1. Older workers are being fired or offered buyouts, and younger ones are being hired.

The most common term for this is “culture fit.” But what it really means is that a company is bound and determined to hire younger, less expensive workers who are basically about the same age with the same mind-set, says Karen Southall Watts, a career coach in Vancouver, Canada. “When a company hires 30 versions of the same person over and over again, I find this a big red flag.”

2. You are reassigned to unpleasant duties.

Job reassignment can be the clearest sign that they’re trying to replace you or get you to quit, advises Suzanne Lucas, a human resources expert who blogs about the workplace. How to avoid this? “As you get older, what you need to be careful about is to be continually growing and improving on the job,” she says.

3. You start hearing tacky comments about your age.

If your boss has recently asked you, even in a friendly way, “Say, when are you going to retire?” — that’s a strong sign that it’s on the boss’s mind, says Laurie McCann, a senior attorney at AARP Foundation Litigation. Prepare a savvy response that protects you and your job, advises Jane Rasmussen, an employment law attorney in Fairfax, Va. Be clear that you have no plans to retire and that you intend to work there for a long time. If you can grab a friendly coworker to witness the conversation, that can be helpful in case the issue evolves into a lawsuit. Send an email to your boss that summarizes the conversation the two of you had about your “retirement” and remind the boss you have no such plans.

4. You stop getting raises.

This can be tricky, McCann says. If your younger coworker who had a stellar year gets a raise, but you had a so-so year and did not get a raise, that is not age discrimination, she says. But if you had a good year and still get coal in your stocking instead of a raise, that may well be age discrimination — unless you’re already at the top of the pay scale.

5. Your performance reviews tank.

This is particularly common when a company gets a new CEO, or when you get a new (often younger) boss who decides it’s time to get rid of the older, more expensive workers. “When you suddenly get 1s instead of 4s on your performance reviews, you are in serious trouble,” warns Robin Ryan, a career counselor and author of Over 40 and You’re Hired! Start compiling evidence early, and consider seeking help from an employment lawyer. “Courts are very suspicious of this kind of thing,” McCann adds. “You don’t suddenly become a bad employee.”

Bruce Horovitz, a former USA Today reporter and Los Angeles Times marketing columnist, is a freelance writer.

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Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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What Is Age Discrimination in the Workplace?

Why Age Discrimination Must Be Avoided by Employers in Any Situation

older worker

Age discrimination is an adverse work treatment of an employee based on a class or category that the employee belongs to—employees over age 40—rather than on the employee’s individual merit.

Age discrimination is unlawful in any phase of employment including job postingsjob descriptions, interviews, hiring, salaries, job assignments, merit increasesperformance management and evaluation, training, disciplinary actionspromotionsdemotions, benefits, employment termination, and layoffs.

Any action that an employer takes that adversely affects a disproportionate number of employees over 40 is also age discrimination. In fact, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “the ADEA allows employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or younger.”

Practicing Non-Discriminatory Behavior During a Layoff

To provide an example of the need to avoid age discrimination, in a layoff situation, in a mid-sized manufacturing company, the most significant discussion centered on how to do the layoff properly and legally. The employment law attorney was extremely concerned that no disparate treatment occurred in the matter of who was selected for the layoff. (A layoff is definitely one of the instances in which you will want to hire an employment law attorney so you act legally.)

This meant that the classifications of every potentially laid-off employee had to be checked for possible discrimination. This meant that the employer had to check the ages of employees, their race, gender, and all of the areas of potential discrimination to make certain that no one class of employee was more adversely affected by the layoff decisions.

Because many of the employees were long-term people, age discrimination was the biggest concern. Age discrimination lawsuits, while not as frequent as they were from 2008 to 2012 when the economy was so bad, are still high and going higher rapidly in the new environment of employee awareness, front page news stories, the lightning spread of information on social media. Employers do not want to become involved with the EEOC.

At the end of the story, to avoid even the appearance of age discrimination in the layoff, a younger white male employee was selected for the layoff. The company retained an over age 50 male employee instead.

The company also decided to eliminate a whole department. Most of the employees in the department were over age 40. But, by eliminating the department, age discrimination culpability was also avoided.

The ADEA also prohibits age discrimination among employees who are older than 40. As an example, employers may not discriminate against a 60-year-old employee in favor of a 50-year-old employee.

The ADEA and its age discrimination prohibition apply to all private employers who have 20 or more employees and to Federal, state and local governments. Age discrimination is also prohibited in employment agencies and labor organizations.

More Facts About Age Discrimination

In the hiring process, requiring the age of applicants must only be for a “bona fide occupational qualification.” This means that the employer must demonstrate that age is a reasonable question essential to the operation of the business.

Employers also need to steer clear of the more subtle forms of potential age discrimination. While you may not choose to ask for age or date of birth on your employment application, doing the math based on when your prospective employee graduated is potentially discriminatory. You would discriminate if you used this information to eliminate a candidate.

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to employees over 40. There are exceptions available in certain circumstances as long as the cost of insuring older employees is the same as insuring younger employees.

In situations involving early retirement offersemployment buyouts, and other exit incentive programs for older workers, work closely with the EEOC and an employment law attorney.

Age Discrimination Prevalence

According to the EEOC, “It is difficult to measure with any accuracy the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace. One indicator of the prevalence of age discrimination is based on the research of the perception of age discrimination by older workers in surveys. Another indicator is age discrimination claims. Most discriminatory and harassing conduct is unreported which means charges filed with federal and state enforcement agencies represent a fraction of the likely discrimination that occurs in the workplace.”

Overall, EEOC resolved 97,443 charges and secured more than $482 million for victims of discrimination in private, federal and state and local government workplaces. The agency reduced the workload of pending charges by 3.8 percent to 73,508 — the lowest pending charge workload in three years. The agency responded to over 585,000 calls to its toll-free number and more than 160,000 inquiries in field offices, reflecting the significant public demand for EEOC’s services. EEOC has previously released the fiscal year 2016 highlights.”

The Bottom Line

Too many older Americans face age discrimination based on stereotypes and outdated assumptions about age and the capability to work. People tend to think of older workers as slower, mistake-prone, and generally worn out. So, age discrimination is too common and too accepted in today’s workplace. Employers need to become much more conscious of the potentially devastating effects of practicing even subtle discrimination based on an individual’s age.


Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman


Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

(202) 508-1499



Join Facebook group: I Need A Discrimination Lawyer


Major Areas of Protection Under Federal Anti-discrimination Laws


Employment Discrimination Attorney

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sexual harassment    sex discrimination

race discrimination    national origin discrimination

religious discrimination    age discrimination

disability discrimination    retaliation

  • Sex Discrimination
    Federal laws prohibit discrimination based on sex with respect to all terms and conditions of their employment, including but not limited to: hiring, compensation, promotion, treatment on the job, termination.
  • Race Discrimination
    Federal laws protect employees from being treated less favorably, receiving fewer job or promotional opportunities, termination and more—including allowing an employee to be subjected to severe or pervasive harassment—based on race.
  • National Origin Discrimination
    Federal laws protect employees from being treated less favorably, receiving fewer job or promotional opportunities, termination and more—including allowing an employee to be subjected to severe or pervasive harassment—based on national origin.
  • Disability Discrimination
    Federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices. An employer may not discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of that employee’s disability, nor may the employer deny the employee a reasonable workplace accommodation that would allow the employee to perform his or her job.
  • Religious Discrimination
    Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their religion. This discrimination may come in the form of adverse employment actions, but may also include harassment based on an employee’s religion. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious practices and beliefs unless the employer can demonstrate that such an accommodation would cause them an “undue hardship.”
  • Age Discrimination
    Federal laws prohibit the mistreatment of workers age 40 and over because of their age. This includes all aspects of employment including hiring, promotions, training, salary, job assignments and termination. Workplace age discrimination also includes harassment based on age that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.
  • Retaliation
    Federal laws protect employees who oppose discriminatory conditions at work and face retaliation for their actions.  Unlawful retaliation can include refusal to hire, demotion, tranfer to undesirable job duties, or termination of the employee who has filed a charge of discrimination with the employer or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or has participated in the investigation of discrimination.

Federal Laws

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s race, sex, national origin, or religion.


  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s disability.


  • The Age Discrimination is Employment Act (ADEA) – prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s age.


Legal Remedies

  • Back pay for lost wages
  • Front pay for future lost wages
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Litigation costs and attorney fees



Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire



202 508-1499