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Like other aspects of aging, discrimination can sneak up on you

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Life can feel like it moves incredibly fast. One day, you are sending your kids off to school, and the next they are starting their own families. Then, you turned around and realized that you somehow passed a certain age without even realizing it.

However, someone at your workplace realized it and began talking to you about retirement. Perhaps your employer suggested that you take different assignments, or your performance reviews seem to be increasingly more negative than they used to be despite the fact that you still perform your job duties in the same manner as you used to in previous years.

Could you be the victim of age discrimination?

It's been more than 50 years since Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In 1967, people recognized that older workers don't always receive the same treatment because of their age. The act protected workers who suffered discrimination from their employers simply because they grew older. Then, in 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court made it more difficult for older workers to bring claims against their employers under the act despite the fact that the average age of the population of this country is rapidly increasing.

Few cases of age discrimination are blatant. Instead, employers attempt to surreptitiously discriminate against older workers, and you could be one of them. Older workers get a bad rap. Employers perceive them as needing expensive health care benefits, demanding higher salaries and retiring too soon after receiving expensive and time-consuming training. Technologically savvy employers also tend to think that older people cannot keep up with or don't understand the latest technology. 

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If you closely scrutinized your workplace, would you recognize the signs of age discrimination? If you look around would you see any of the following:

  • Do your supervisors, managers or coworkers make derogatory comments about older people, perhaps including you specifically?
  • Does your employer deny older workers opportunities that could advance their careers because of a belief that they, or you, wouldn't understand the technology involved? 
  • Does it appear that decisions regarding layoffs tend to disproportionately target older workers?

These are just some of the more subtle indicators that an employer could discriminate against you because of your age. More than likely, you cannot point to any one thing that obviously looks like ageism in your workplace, but your gut tells you it's happening. Under these circumstances, discuss your circumstances with a legal professional who can help you identify whether you are the victim of age discrimination, inform you of your rights and help you initiate a claim, if appropriate.

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