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Age Discrimination Is Common, Retaliation Fears Hinder Reporting

According to a recent survey by the insurer Hiscox USA, 21% of American workers over 40 say they have suffered from age discrimination in the workplace. The age at which they are most likely to experience discrimination is 51, and men may suffer it slightly more than women.

This is a problem for both employers and employees. As a spokesperson for Hiscox points out, Americans are working longer and retiring later. "Discrimination of any kind brings serious reputational and financial risks to any business and can negatively impact a worker's career trajectory," he added.

The 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study surveyed 400 full-time workers in the U.S. who were 40 and over. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination of any kind against employees who are 40 and older.

According to the survey, although 21% of workers -- more than one in five -- reported facing age discrimination at work, only about 40% of them had filed a complaint. Among those who did not file complaints, 54% did not do so because they feared retaliation. Another 24% did not file complaints because they didn't know how.

The survey also found that 51% of workers who observed age bias against another employee did not report it. Of those, 62% said they held back out of fear of employer retaliation.

Interestingly, the survey found men to be more likely to report that age discrimination had impacted their careers. For example, 43% of men said they thought being 40 or over had been a barrier to new employment, while only 30% of women reported the same. And, slightly under 40% of men thought that age discrimination had frustrated their career advancement, compared to only 24% of women.

A few other takeaways from the survey:

  • 80% of those who reported experiencing age discrimination said it impacted their career trajectories.
  • Around 43% of the respondents said they had left an employer after experiencing or witnessing age discrimination.
  • Of respondents 65 and younger, approximately 67% said they plan to work beyond age 66.
  • 62% of the respondents said they had received no age discrimination training in the previous year.

Is there an ageism problem at your company?

If you think you are experiencing age discrimination, you should act quickly to address the problem. Your career may be on the line.

Unsure about how to file a complaint? Worried about retaliation? Your first step is to discuss your situation with an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer can evaluate your claim and work with you through your company's internal complaint process and file any appropriate charges with the EEOC or a state human rights agency.

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