Age Discrimination Causes Substantial Damage to Older Workers’ Careers and Health

Several recent studies demonstrate that age discrimination is pervasive in American workplaces, which is causing extensive damage to the health and careers of older workers. According to a 2018 AARP survey, about three in five older workers have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and more than nine in ten older workers see age discrimination as either somewhat or very common.[1] This pervasive discrimination can severely harm the careers of older workers, often resulting in negative performance reviews, demotions, and even termination.[2] In fact, the Urban Institute recently found that “[s]lightly more than one-half of full-time, full-year workers ages 51 to 54 with a long-term employer experienced an employer-related involuntary job separation after age 50 that led to a long-term unemployment spell or that reduced weekly earnings at least 50 percent for two or more years.”[3]

Regrettably, researchers at Yale University have found that the substantial damages caused by age discrimination extend even further.[4] The researchers found that age discrimination and negative age stereotypes combine to cause Americans aged sixty and over nearly $40 billion in health care costs annually. They further found that ageism causes over seventeen million cases of health conditions per year, including heightened cardiovascular stress and increased risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event. These numbers are likely to increase even further in the coming years due to the prevalence of age discrimination in American workplaces, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the 65- to 74-year-old and 75-and-older age groups to have the fastest rates of labor force growth over the next five years.[5]

These studies demonstrate that it is imperative to combat negative age stereotypes and age discrimination, particularly in the workplace. As the Yale University researchers noted, even if “an intervention had a limited impact on ageism, its potential could be substantial—not only financially, but also by enhancing the lives of older persons.”[6]

Fortunately, certain federal and state laws prohibit discrimination against older workers and provide victims of discrimination avenues to defend themselves. For instance, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.[7] Most states also have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of age, including California, Maryland, New York, and Tennessee. However, the ADEA and many state age discrimination laws have strict time limits on filing claims of age discrimination. Therefore, victims of age discrimination in the workplace should consider contacting an employment attorney to discuss potential protections or claims they may have under the law.