Age discrimination is prohibited in hiring. Generally, age discrimination protections apply to workers who are over 40 years old, although some states safeguard the rights of younger workers too. But, nationwide, if an employer says that they won’t consider hiring someone over the age of 39 (or 50, or 60, etc.), it is usually a clear-cut discrimination case. This is why it is rare to see job postings that list an age range, instead focusing on actual qualifications – an applicant’s education, their experience, the skills they need to have for the job, etc.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that employers aren’t discriminating based on age. They certainly might be, but they could just be hiding their efforts. As a result, it’s important to look for coded language in job postings that may indicate that this is taking place.
Problematic descriptions of ideal candidates
Consider the ways in which a job posting describes the candidate that a company is looking for. It may say that the employer is looking for someone who is energetic and can invigorate the workplace. It may say that the employer wants to hire young people who are digital natives and understand technology. One of the most common phrases is that a company is looking to hire “recent college graduates,” and encourages them to apply.
It’s easy to see why saying that a company is looking for “young workers” is problematic, but something like “recent college graduates” is often the same. It doesn’t denote a specific age, but most workers who are over 40 years old will not have recently graduated from college. They may have an education, but they may have graduated 20 or 30 years ago. There are some college students who would fit into this older age bracket, of course – like a 45-year-old who went back to school after a long break – but it is much less common.
What this means is that older workers may feel that they are being discriminated against or not given a real chance to apply for the job. Likewise, if someone who is over 40 does apply for the job and they are turned down because they are not a recent college graduate, then they may argue that the real issue here is just their age.
Anyone who is concerned that they’re being unlawfully discriminated against can seek legal guidance to better understand what they need to know about all of the legal options they have moving forward. Sometimes age discrimination, like other forms of unlawful mistreatment, are subtle. Seeking legal guidance can help an individual to better understand whether the circumstances they’re facing are actionable accordingly.