Age Discrimination and You

by Madison Fiedler-Carlson

I’m an older person who is highly qualified and looking to change jobs, but for some reason, businesses don’t seem interested in me.  I’m starting to think it’s my age. What should I do?

Unfortunately, you are not alone.  Starting a new job or new career later in life is daunting enough without the prospect of being treated differently because of your age.

Under state and federal law, it is illegal for a company to not hire you because of your age.  If your application is denied and there is evidence that the employer didn’t hire you because of your age, you may have what is called a “failure to hire” claim against that company.

No one needs to say, “I’m not hiring you because of your age” for age discrimination to exist, and an employer who would discriminate would rarely announce it.  For example, you could be asked questions like these during an interview:

  • “How much longer do you think you’ll be working?”
  • “Are you planning to retire soon?”
  • “I bet you’re looking forward to retirement.”
  • “Don’t you want to spend more time with your grandchildren?”

Asking how much longer you plan on working and questions about retirement can evidence discrimination because the focus is on your age rather than your qualifications.  Comments or concerns about how much an employer would have to pay you based on your level of experience could also point to age discrimination.

Sometimes evidence of age discrimination comes from who the company does choose to hire.   For example, if the company chooses to hire someone who is younger and less qualified than you, it may be because the company is considering age over merit.  Comments like needing “young blood” or “fresh faces” can point to the same thing.

If you have heard comments like this during an interview or if you have been passed over for a younger, less qualified employee, your age may have played a part in why the company chose not to hire you.  Your contributions and experience are valuable, and your age should not be seen as a “negative” in any application or interview.

If these experiences sound familiar, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to determine if you may have a legal claim.

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