How To Recognise And Handle Age Discrimination In The Workplace

Although it may not appear apparent in the first instance, overgeneralising and stereotyping based on age is something mature-aged employees have endured in their workplace environment. Understanding the operation of the Age Discrimination Act and recognising the signs are equally as important in order to combat age discrimination in the workplace.

Age discrimination

What is Age Discrimination in the workplace?

Typically speaking, age discrimination is most commonly prominent in the workplace and mainly affects individuals who are aged 40 years and older. Adverse treatment towards particular groups of ‘older’ people is illegal and therefore punishable by law under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (CTH) (‘ADA’). To view the act in more detail, click here.

The enactment of the ADA through the federal legislature means that it applies to all members of society as a whole. All employers within Australia have a legal responsibility to ensure that the work environment provided to employees is free from discrimination. Since the passing of this act, the intention of the legislature has been clear- eliminating age-related discrimination. However, in a modern-day work environment, cases of age discrimination still exist. Consequently, individuals may seek the advice of workplace lawyers to grasp an understanding of their legal rights in such circumstances.

Older employee working with a younger colleague

Recognise the signs of Age Discrimination

In most circumstances, hiring managers will assure you that age-related discrimination is not something that occurs within their company. However, the reality is that most cases will go completely unnoticed.

Here are some signs you should look out for:

1. Overhearing or experiencing age-related comments

This can take form in more than one way. The first being the more subtle and humorous approach to your age. Casually speaking about your retirement plans, or jokingly mocking how your typing speed is not up to the younger employees standard or even suggesting to take the elevator rather than the stairs to avoid being out of breath.

The second approach is one that is more direct and rather hostile. Pressuring you to retire to make way for other employees or even suggesting that your skillset is outdated and a younger employee may be able to bring more value in your role.

2. Older employees are being fired or their positions have been made redundant

Often, employers conduct performance reviews where they may become over critical in their final reporting. Consequently, they may suggest a strong decline in performance although your work ethic has not changed. If you suddenly receive unfavourable performance reports, your employer may be discriminating against you based on your age.

3. You are looked past for promotions and raises

In deciding which employee is most suitable for a promotion, bonus or pay raise managers should base their decisions on the employees work performance and their ability to complete their job. Yet too frequently, these decisions are purely based on the employee’s age.

If your much younger colleague has recently been promoted, although your performance has evidently been more notable, you may have fallen victim of age discrimination.

4. Being isolated

The important meetings that you once sat in with and made beneficial contributions to are now being taken over by much younger employees. It’s not just a once-off thing either, it’s a trend that you’ve noticed- older employees alike have been segregated.

The Human Rights Commission compiled a list of case studies which can be accessed here.

Busy businesswoman

Handling Age Discrimination

If you have become a victim of age discrimination at work, or fear the possibility of potentially falling victim, here a few things you can implement in order to eliminate the chances.

1. Continue to expand your knowledge

Invest in your own personal learning, growth and development. It is crucial to stay up to date and be a knowledgeable source of your company. As an experienced employee, you probably have a wealth of knowledge and skills to bring to the table- back yourself up with the necessary training and don’t cut yourself short in the technology department.

2. Raise awareness with appropriate personnel at your company

Ensure that you keep track of the encounter by summarising the conversation over email and sending it directly to the appropriate person within your company. If the inappropriate behaviour continues, speak to the relevant head of power and raise your concerns. If there is still no change, you have every right to take legal action as each individual is entitled to equal treatment in their workplace. Lawyers weekly summaries this concept, click here to read more.

Individuals who face age-related discrimination within their work environment are impacted in a detrimental manner. Recognising the signs, regardless of how discrete they may appear, and taking action is the starting point to stopping the act in its track.