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Career Advice

6 Real-Life Examples of Age Discrimination

Posted by Amy Elisa Jackson

Last Updated September 14, 2018
|8 min read

Age discrimination is alive and well in America. And it's affecting more than the community of retirees who want to re-enter the workforce. Ageism is rearing it's ugly head in interviews and recruiting conversations amongst 40- and 50-year-olds.

Can't believe it?

Neither could we, at first. When we published “5 Ways Older Workers Can Combat Age Discrimination”, we thought we were speaking to the 60+ crowd, those who were looking to repackage their skills for a new career chapter. However, when we read the comments on that article, we realized the issue wasn't as simple as we thought. Heightening tech skills and showing enthusiasm were only so helpful for mature job seekers. The stories of discrimination and implicit bias that older candidates said they had faced were shocking and disheartening.

Here are a few of the most eye-opening revelations of age discrimination and companies who are specifically hiring mature talent.

Scenario #1

“I met with a recruiter this week. After getting through the look of disappointment when she saw how old I am, she told me that many of their requests are for "a recent college graduate because they haven't developed bad habits yet". What a slap in the face. I guess checking your phone constantly, instead of working, is not considered a bad habit. If I am willing to work for entry-level wages, why wouldn't you want my years of experience? I am sick of hearing older workers haven't kept up with technology. I have been through MS-DOS, the many variations of Windows, WordPerfect, Dbase, Access, Word, Excel, and on and on. Each time I have had to learn and adapt. Give me a break.” —Adrienne Lake

Scenario #2

“I have taken all dates off of my resume, and I have shortened it to only include my work history after 2000. I am considered by others to be at the very top of my field. I don't have young children, so I don't ever miss work because of sick children. Having lost my job when our clinic was closed, I have spent over a year looking for work. Agree with Deborah below. There is basically nothing you can do to combat age discrimination, and it is rampant. Illegal, but it is definitely out there. And yes, Jerry. The online applications, with hiring managers that aren't familiar with the actual work being done, is not helpful.” —Barbara Jennings

Scenario #3

“In my mid-40s, I think this issue of ageism starts quite early, as far back for me as my late 30s. Getting that interview is almost impossible, which makes me ponder about what to omit in terms of work history and years of service. Disconcerting. But it's good to have a community to share best practices and experiences.” —Giovanna Aguilar

Scenario #4

“I have been a "bridesmaid" 4 times in the last 3 months of job searching and interviews thru all of these online sites. I don't look a day over 43 (I'm almost 51). I'm smart, assertive, good in a room, adaptable, sense of humor...I could go on. But I feel like today's employers think it's normal to expect 50+ hours /week, low pay, and employees who are desperate-hungry like they're just out of college. If you're at all laid back, confident, relaxed, employers are turned off. Everybody wants a workhorse, but with no hay as a reward. I remember my first job at a big law firm in L.A. I had my review, asked for my small raise, and the COO (woman) looked at me and said, "I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't get the best person for the least amount. Do you want to keep your job, or not?" 25 years later, I feel like nothing's changed. It sucks because I'm statistically slated to live another 30 years! I'm not gonna sit around, get lazy and encourage Alzheimer's to set in. I plan on working for another 15-20 years, but where?” —Laurie Nelson Altenbern

Scenario #5

“This is an issue I've been reading more and more about every day from all over the world. I think most of us over 50 understand the necessity of keeping up with the latest trends, technology, etc etc. Afterall, we were using the first version of Windows and had to continually update our skills to keep up with the multiple versions that were to follow. And that's only one small example, there are so many. Think about all your work experiences, no matter how insignificant you think they are, incorporate all those learnings in a resume. Trying to prove age discrimination from a legal perspective is virtually impossible unless a hiring person blurts it out - "you're too old, and because of that we're not hiring you." Every article I read says the same thing, that's because there is no real solution to the problem. The only way out of it is to: keep looking for that job, start a business — after all, all that knowledge has to be worth something to someone, and network your butt off.” —Lois Brown

Scenario #6

“I never thought I was going to be in this situation, having to deal with age discrimination. I was let go after 8 hard working years, the company personnel was restructured and I was the oldest & [highest paid] in my department, they did not consider the fact that I was the hardest worker there, I can beat any twenty-year-old when it comes to stamina! I have been thru so many interviews that when they see me I notice the look on their faces as"oh, she is older" even though I don't look 53! I am beginning to doubt my skills and wonder if I chose the wrong career. I am a Technical Designer in the fashion industry and there is a lot of competition. So I am thinking on reinventing myself, so I will try to start something on my own and work my butt off networking.” —Dari Roldan

5 Companies Hiring Mature Talent or Have Returnship Programs

1. Goldman Sachs

Details: The Goldman Sachs Returnship program was specifically designed for those who left the workforce for two or more years and are ready to return. This paid, ten-week program offers opportunities in a variety of divisions and the chance to experience the vast network of resources at Goldman Sachs. In the same way that an internship offers a guided period of exploration, a “returnship” provides individuals with an opportunity to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee.

Learn More

2. Barclay's

Details: Barclay’s offers real skills and training, fair pay and real career option through their Apprenticeship program. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the role that’s right for you. You might have been made redundant and need to learn new skills. Whatever your situation, if you want to change careers, Barclay’s will help you find the right direction.  Anyone can be a Foundation Apprentice. 18 or 85. A parent, a school leaver, ex-military, unemployed. Whoever you are, whatever your life stage, this program is the chance to move forward and achieve your ambitions.

Learn More

3. Lyft

Details: The gig economy has embraced retiree workers perhaps more than any other industry. In a 2016 article in the New York Times, the writer interviewed senior drivers and noted, "Ms. Johnson is among a growing number of older Americans who are driving for Uber or its competitor Lyft to augment their retirement income. Some drivers say it is a great chance to be independent and earn extra cash on their own schedule. But others, including some drivers, say it is exploitation of older people who work as independent contractors, without any benefits, because their age means they have a harder time finding full-time employment."

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4. National Institutes of Health

Details: A frequent honoree in AARP's Best Employers for Workers Over 50, NIH nurtures and respects its mature employees. As of 2013, forty-three percent of NIH employees are age 50 or over, with an average employee tenure of 15.25 years. Employees at all stages of their careers have opportunities to receive training, and some are mandatory. These include tuition reimbursement, certification classes, in-house classroom training, online training, commercial training, professional conferences, and student loan repayment programs. AARP noted that 100 percent of employees had participated in at least one of these opportunities.

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5. H&R Block

Details:  H&R Block is one of the largest tax return preparers in the US, where it has approximately 11,000 company-owned and franchised retail locations. H&R hires a ton of former accountants, CPA's, tax people who have retired but who are looking for a seasonal tax gig. Plus, Time has compiled a list of the jobs people work the longest, based on the percentage of workers over 65, and at the top of the list is tax preparers.

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