Identifying Common Examples of Age Discrimination in the Workplace


March 2022 (Chicago, IL)

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 64% of American workers have witnessed or experienced age discrimination at their place of work.

In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was created to protect employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. From that point forward, age has been a “protected characteristic” in the American workplace, which means employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their age.
The ADEA prohibits age discrimination against employees aged 40 years or older and applies to:

• Businesses with at least 20 employees
• Labor organizations with at least 25 members
• Employment agencies
• Federal, local, and state governments

ADEA made age-based discrimination and harassment illegal throughout every phase of employment, including hiring, interviews, performance reviews, salaries, benefits, job assignments, promotions, and more. This act marked an important and positive step towards protecting workers’ rights.

Unfortunately, age discrimination and harassment continue to occur in every industry and sector today. Most age discrimination goes unreported, making it difficult to measure its actual prevalence. However, according to recent data from the AARP, approximately two-thirds of employees over the age of 45 report that they have either experienced or witnessed age discrimination in the workplace.
Age discrimination can manifest in a wide variety of different forms. Although it can be experienced by both younger and older employees, age discrimination is most frequently experienced by workers aged 45 and over. Oftentimes, age-based discrimination is insidious and can be challenging to prove. Employees may not even be entirely certain whether they are victims of age-based discrimination.
Our Chicago employment law attorneys have highlighted some of the most common signs of age discrimination in the workplace below.

What Does Age Discrimination in the Workplace Look Like?

If you are concerned that you have been victimized by age discrimination at your workplace, you may be right. Here are several common signs that your employer may be illegally discriminating against you because of your age.

Noticing a Pattern of Hiring Only Younger Employees

Most employers would never exnews this, but they may be specifically looking for younger employees during the hiring process. This is often due to unwarranted and unfair misconceptions about an older candidate’s work pace, sociability, knowledge, and abilities. An employer’s use of the term “overqualified” may be a sign of age discrimination. It is unlawful for an employer not to hire an experienced older individual based solely on the assumption that they may become bored or dissatisfied and leave the job.

Employers may also tend to favor hiring younger employees based on the assumption that they will be willing to work for less money.

Getting Turned Down for a Promotion

If you have been passed over for a raise or promotion that ended up going to a younger and less qualified worker, you may be experiencing age discrimination. A distinctive pattern of older workers being overlooked for promotions with no evidence of such decisions being based on merit can indicate age-based discrimination.

Being Overlooked for Challenging Job Assignments

The practice of assigning a disproportionate amount of tedious assignments to older employees while entrusting younger employees with more challenging assignments is one way that employers may attempt to force older employees out the door. This tactic demoralizes and frustrates the worker by making them seem less useful and valuable within the broader organization. This practice also perpetuates the myth that older employees are not as capable or knowledgeable as their younger coworkers.

Likewise, an employer may offer more and/or better learning opportunities to younger employees. This may include discrepancies in opportunities such as educational coursework, reimbursement for continuing education training classes, industry conference attendance, etc.

Facing Unfair Disciplinary Measures

All employees have the right to be treated equally. If you feel that you are consistently receiving harsher discipline or criticism than your younger co-workers, you may be experiencing age discrimination in your workplace.

Being Encouraged or Forced to Retire

Employers will sometimes offer attractive early retirement packages to older employees as an incentive to push them out the door. Even if the employee declines this retirement package and the option to retire, it is entirely possible that the company will terminate them anyway. It should be noted that enforcing a mandatory retirement age is only legal within a limited number of specific professions, such law enforcement.

How You Can Fight Age Discrimination

All employees have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Fair and equal treatment at work has a direct impact on job performance. Tackling age discrimination helps everyone to have an equal opportunity in developing their skills in the workplace, regardless of age.

If you feel that you have been victimized by age discrimination in your workplace, you will need to gather evidence of harassment, exclusion, favoritism, or unfair discipline that has affected you in a negative way.

Proving age discrimination can be challenging, and it is important to consult with an employment law attorney to help assess your options. The employment law attorneys at the Herbert Law Firm offer free, no-obligation case reviews and consultations to Chicagoans in need of experienced legal representation.

For a free confidential consultation about your age discrimination concerns, call us at 312-655-7660 or fill out our online form at

To learn more about our employment discrimination services, visit our website at