In Australia there are laws in place to protect individuals aged 40 and over in the workplace, but it doesn’t always mean they are upheld. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed in 1967 and makes it against the law for businesses to discriminate against workers aged 40 or older, either in current employment, or seeking employment.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there was a steep increase just as recently as 2009 in the number of age-related discrimination claims. In that year, the EEOC noted 22,778 age discrimination claims, close to a 38 percent uptick from only 16,548 three years earlier.
In most cases, age discrimination is often cleverly disguised as something else – so it is up to employees and job seekers to be aware of how they can protect themselves from this type of discrimination!
So, below we have suggested some ways for you to protect yourself from age discrimination:
- Keep your skills updated: Technology is one of the main areas that comes to mind!! Keep up with new fads and changes! Sometimes your employer will even offer courses – take up the offer, make sure you face anything new so that you don’t become overwhelmed,
- Network: keep connected with people – this will help remind you of your worth AND also keeps you in the know for any job opportunities coming up,
- Document any discriminatory practices: make sure you keep a record of any situations where you suspect you have been discriminated against. Include as MUCH detail as possible.
- Document your work record: be sure to keep a record of your good work performance! If you have good attendance, good results in line with your job description and are ‘easy to work with’ your employer will have to have solid reasoning behind letting you go!
- Out of the usual: be aware of anything that seems out of the usual , ie: surprise evaluations, new benchmarks that aren’t universal for all staff.
- Promotions: if you are getting passed over for promotions, or notice that younger staff are getting better chances, you may need to consider that a red flag.
- Training new staff: it is not uncommon for companies to ask their senior staff to train up new arrivals or groom younger staff members, but be aware (and keep notes) if you are being asked to train a “successor”.
Now all this being said (because reading back over it, it seems like a huge scare mongering story), the most important thing about age discrimination is that it doesn’t seem to happen to people who have the confidence in themselves and their ability. If you are in a work environment that seems skewed to younger people, that can be damaging to your self esteem, so perhaps you are better off looking for a work environment that is a better fit?
If you are looking for a job, scrutinize the want ads! Check the language, are they using young colloquialisms? Are they asking for ‘youthful’ aspects? Does the interviewer ask questions that seem to revolve around age? If so, perhaps this is not the job for you!
I would like to think that age discrimination is becoming a thing of the past, both the employer and the employee are responsible for ensuring that older workers are of value to a company!