What Qualifies as Age Discrimination? (All You Need to Know)

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It was a clear blue sky day when Ben, a dedicated employee of ‘MegaCorp’ for 25 years, walked into his office. At 53, he felt young at heart, often cracking the best dad jokes around the water cooler. However, things took an unexpected turn that day, igniting a discussion many of us shy away from. Join me as we delve into what qualifies as age discrimination. Have you, like Ben, faced something similar? Let’s figure this out together.

What Is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination involves treating an individual, either an applicant or an employee, less favorably because of their age. Whether it’s in the hiring process, job assignments, promotions, or even terminations, age discrimination can manifest in various ways.


  • 62% of workers aged 45 and older claim they have witnessed or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
  • Roughly 1 in 5 discrimination complaints received by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is about age-related discrimination.

What Qualifies as Age Discrimination?

Now, understanding what qualifies as age discrimination is essential. Not every joke or offhand comment amounts to discrimination. Real age discrimination involves:

  • Not hiring someone because they are “too old” or “overqualified” due to their age.
  • Giving promotions to younger employees despite older employees having more experience or better qualifications.
  • Mandatory retirements are based on age unless specific exemptions apply.
  • Reducing job assignments or responsibilities because of age assumptions.


  • Employees aged 60 and older are three times less likely to receive job-related training than those in their 30s.
  • 38% of employers admitted avoiding hiring older workers, fearing they might soon retire.

How Do You Know If You Are Age-Discriminated?

Recognizing age discrimination can sometimes be a tricky endeavor, as it often manifests subtly and can be disguised under seemingly benign comments or actions. Being vigilant and informed can help you discern between casual remarks and genuine age bias. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Frequent Comments or Jokes:

Remarks like “You’re too old for this,” “You wouldn’t understand this new technology,” or “Isn’t it almost time for you to retire?” are all red flags. Even if presented humorously, they bear undertones of age bias.

  • Change in Job Responsibilities:

If you suddenly find that your significant tasks are being handed over to younger colleagues without a valid reason, it could indicate age discrimination, especially if you’ve been competent and successful in those roles.

  • Exclusion from Training or Professional Development:

If you notice that you’re consistently being passed over for training opportunities, workshops, or conferences in favor of younger employees, it may not be a mere oversight.

  • Performance Reviews:

A sudden drop in your performance evaluations, especially without concrete reasons or if age-related biases are hinted at, is concerning. For instance, comments about not being able to “keep up” or being “set in your ways” can be indicative.

  • Isolation from Teams or Projects:

Being left out of critical meetings, projects, or team activities, especially if these opportunities are given to younger colleagues, can signal age discrimination.

  • Changes in Work Environment:

If office amenities, tools, or facilities are tailored solely to cater to the younger workforce, neglecting the needs or preferences of older employees, it can be a subtle form of discrimination.

  • Unwarranted Assumptions:

If it’s assumed without checking with you that you wouldn’t be interested in a new project, working overtime, or relocating because of your age, this is a clear sign of age bias.

  • Hiring and Promotion Patterns:

Pay attention to company hiring trends. If there’s a conspicuous pattern of only hiring or promoting younger individuals despite having older, qualified candidates, it could be systemic age discrimination.

By staying informed and alert, you can better identify and address age discrimination. Remember, age discrimination is not just about how you’re treated but also about missed opportunities because of age-related biases. If you find similarities in these signs with your experiences, it might be time to take proactive steps

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How to Deal With Age Discrimination?

Facing age discrimination can be demoralizing and emotionally challenging, but it’s essential to remember that you’re not alone in this, and there are steps you can take to address it:

Document Incidents

Keep a detailed record of any comments, actions, or decisions that you believe are discriminatory. Make notes of dates, times, places, witnesses, and the exact nature of the incident. This documentation can serve as evidence should you decide to take further action.

Open Communication

If you feel comfortable, consider addressing the issue directly with the person making discriminatory remarks. Sometimes, they might not even be aware of their unintentional biases. A calm and open dialogue can lead to understanding and resolution.

Consult HR

Your Human Resources department is there to ensure that workplace ethics are upheld. Approach them with your concerns, providing them with the evidence you’ve documented. They are trained to handle such situations and can facilitate dialogues, mediations, or other solutions.

Seek Legal Advice

Age discrimination is illegal in many parts of the world. A legal professional can provide guidance on whether you have a viable case, how to proceed, and what your rights are. They can also inform you about any statutes or regulations specific to your area.

File a Complaint

If internal resolutions don’t address your concerns, consider filing a formal complaint with relevant bodies, such as the EEOC in the United States. They can investigate and take action against companies violating discrimination laws.

Seek External Support

Sometimes, emotional and psychological support is crucial. Consider joining support groups, forums, or online communities where people share their experiences with age discrimination. Such platforms can provide a sense of camaraderie, advice, and resources for coping.

Educate and Advocate

Consider workshops or seminars on age inclusivity for your workplace. Promote a culture of understanding and respect for all age groups. This not only addresses your concerns but proactively prevents discrimination in the future.

Know Your Worth

Remember, age brings experience, maturity, and a unique set of skills that are invaluable in many job roles. Don’t let age-related biases diminish your self-worth or professional value.

By understanding your rights and the resources at your disposal, you can effectively address and combat age discrimination, ensuring a fair and inclusive work environment for everyone.


Like Ben, who bravely addressed the issue head-on and found renewed purpose after understanding what qualifies as age discrimination, it’s essential to stand up for your rights. Age brings experience, wisdom, and a unique perspective, all of which are invaluable in any work setting. 



  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports and findings.

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