The hard truths of navigating ageism in IT

In an industry that favors youth over experience, the best defense against age discrimination may be avoiding becoming a victim in the first place.

By Bob Violino
June 14, 2017


How to deal with age discrimination

There's no need for you to give in to age discrimination and lose out on career opportunities. Here, it's important to know your rights, says Laurie McCann, senior attorney with AARP Foundation.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to employers (including federal, state, and local government agencies) with 20 or more employees. ADEA protects individuals age 40 and older from age discrimination in every aspect of the employment relationship, McCann says.

The law prohibits age discrimination in decisions about hiring, firing, layoffs, pay, benefits, promotions, demotions, performance reviews, or any other condition of employment. States also have laws protecting against age discrimination. The Workplace Fairness website provides information on each state's discrimination law.

If you suspect you've discriminated against, it might be a good idea to let your employer or supervisor know that you are aware of your rights under the ADEA and/or state law, McCann says. Sometimes managers assume workers are not aware of such protections.

"For those on the job confronting age discrimination, tell someone in authority, such as [human resources management], about the concern and that you want to be treated fairly and equally," Ventrell-Monsees says. "Be proactive in requesting training, coaching, and opportunities to dispel stereotypes."

Also, keep a record of any age-related statements or other incidents that suggest you are being treated unfairly because of your age, McCann says. And depending on personalities and internal politics, a good first step might be to talk to your manager about your concerns or file an internal grievance.

"If you are not receiving feedback on your performance, ask for it," McCann says. "You need to know if there are concerns about your performance so that you have the opportunity to address them. Sudden changes in performance appraisals are often viewed with suspicion and may support a claim of discrimination."

Record keeping applies to job interviews as well.

"If an interview raises concerns, take careful notes as soon as possible after the interview that reflect who was in the conversation, what was said, and the date of the conversation," Dermody says. "If you think you are being denied a job due to age, contact a lawyer and/or the EEOC."

There are important time limitations for challenging age discrimination. In most states, you must file a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged action, McCann says. In some states, the filing time is 180 days. Make sure you know which time limit applies to you and keep track of these deadlines.

If you file a charge with the EEOC or your state fair employment practice agency, be as helpful as you can to the investigator assigned to your charge, McCann says. Provide them with names of potential witnesses, your notes about age-related comments, and other incidents.

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