- Twenty-one percent of U.S. workers age 40 and older said they have faced age discrimination, most around age 51, according to the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study. Only 40% of those who experienced age discrimination reported it. The study of 400 full-time U.S. workers also found that more than 67% of those 40-65 plan to keep working after they turn 66. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they received no age discrimination training in the past 12 months.
- The study also found that men were more likely than women to feel that their age works against them career-wise, with 43% of men saying their age has been a barrier in getting a new job, compared to 24% of women. More than 39% of male respondents said that age hindered their career advancement, compared to 24% of women.
- Hiscox recommended that employers fight ageism by providing workplace training on age bias; watching for incidences that show older workers might be harassed, excluded from projects or underrepresented in hiring and advancement; and responding immediately to complaints to lower their risks of liability.
Older workers in the Hiscox study said they refrained from reporting ageism because they feared creating a hostile work environment or they weren't sure how to file a complaint. In fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) report, The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S., found that just 3% of older workers reported incidences of age discrimination.
Ageism is active in the workplace; therefore, employers can't afford to let it go unreported and unchecked. The EEOC has vowed to investigate ageism complaints and vigorously pursue employers that it finds violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). HR can train workers on age discrimination, including how to file a complaint as either a target of ageism or a witness, and provide sensitivity training, particularly for younger workers who are reportedly more likely to see an aging workforce negatively. Through these strategies, HR leaders can help lower their organization's liability risk.
The unemployment rate has been at historic lows for several consecutive months, yet older workers still report having difficulty getting hired, according to the EEOC. As employers struggle to fill jobs and compete for talent, they can start addressing ageism early in the recruiting process by removing terms in job ads that may signal discrimination against older job applicants such as "digital native," experts recommend.