By all accounts, age discrimination is far from dead in the United States.
Despite important legislation enacted in the 1960s and 1970s—and in effect to this day—the fact is that age discrimination complaints in the United States have been on the rise in recent years. According to Fortune, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that employment-related age discrimination charges increased by more than a third from 2006 to 2009 alone.
With age discrimination refusing to go away quietly, it’s vital to know your legal rights.
The cornerstone of your legal protection against age discrimination is a piece of legislation that’s been serving seniors well for 45 years.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) outlaws such practices as hiring of employees on the basis of age and denial of benefits based on age. Although clearly some age discrimination in employment still exists in the US, federal law doesn’t condone such discrimination. This is important, because enactment of a law is often one of the first steps in changing attitudes—and attitudes toward age bias in the workplace definitely have changed since the Age Discrimination in Employment Act took effect.
Nowadays an ambitious senior wanting a place in the workforce has more protection than ever.
The law requires an employer or potential employer to treat seniors in the same manner as workers who may be decades younger. There are few employers now that can impose mandatory retirement, and age alone cannot be the determining factor when it comes to hiring or promotion. Of course, age discrimination may be hard to prove, but most employers are likely to play it safe when federal law is so squarely on the employee’s or prospective employee’s side.
Having the law on your side doesn’t mean you’ll have an automatic advantage when it comes to hiring decisions—nor should it. Legislation aimed at ending unfair discrimination based on age aims only to ensure you’ll be able to complete for jobs on a level playing field. It’s still up to you to do everything you can to wow a potential employer.
How to Knock ’em Dead in an Interview
It may help if you approach an interview as a younger candidate might do—that is, without calling attention to your age. Ed Redfern, Jr., National Program Consultant for the AARP, as quoted on the Experis ManpowerGroup website, says, “When you talk about your background, don’t focus on all the years of experience you have. You’ve wasted five minutes and you haven’t really told them what they want to hear.”
If you’re an older American seeking a job, Experis suggests streamlining your resume by removing information that may give away your age.