TAMPA, Fla. — Pandemic job loss affected millions of Americans, but for one group, Americans 55 and over, the impact continues.
About a 1/3 of the American workforce is over the age of 50 and according to a poll by AARP, 78% of older adult workers say they’ve seen or have experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
“Yeah, I feel kind of pushed. Pushed out,” said Susan Hart who is 58.
Like many people her age, she has anxiety about equal access to employment.
“It’s really discouraging. All of my contemporaries, you know, we’ve got, like, maybe, 20 to 30 years of job experience," she added.
She says she's heard stories from other older adults feeling like they didn’t get the job because of their age.
“They’ll say, you know, they didn’t hire me because I’m too experienced and they won’t accept the salary, but really it is age," Hart said.
According to AARP, 49.3% of older adults, aged 55 and above, that are in the job market are long-term unemployed, which means they’ve been out of the workforce for six months or more.
They also found 2/3 of older workers are open to learning new skills to stay competitive in the job market.
“African American/Black older workers were at 74% and Hispanic/Latino were at 82%. So, there is a big interest in learning new skills,” said Susan Weinstock with AARP.
When suing over age discrimination in employment, you have to prove that age was the sole motivating force for why you weren’t hired, but in Washington, the Protect Older Workers Against Discrimination Act passed the House and is waiting for action in the Senate. If it becomes law, this would make it easier to prove age discrimination by also taking into account an employer’s other motives.
“That bill would correct the Supreme Court decision that made it harder to prove age discrimination,” said Weinstock.
So, what should you do if you feel like you’re the victim of age discrimination in the workplace? If you’re already employed with a company, but feel like you’ve been denied upward mobility because of your age or have heard ageist remarks, write a letter to human resources.
“And the reason for doing that is because they are protected under the law both federal, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act as well as the Florida Civil Rights Act,” said Yvette Everhart with Sass Law Firm.
Doing this also protects you from retaliation for complaining.
If you’re an applicant and you feel you’re being discriminated against, file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also known as the EEOC, within 300 days.
“It preserves your claim legally because if you don’t file, you will be barred from doing it if it’s not timely," Everhart said.
Speaking with an employment lawyer is never a bad thing. They can guide you on the best steps to take.
“I definitely always recommend that if someone feels like they’re being discriminated against not to delay seeking out counsel because it’s better to know than to not know.”
As for Susan, she wants to do anything she can to bring attention to this growing problem.
"I, for one, want to be part of the solution, whatever that means because I’m scared for myself and I’m scared for so many people in our demographic,” said Hart.
If you’re an older adult and you’re looking to brush up on your skills or learn something new to make yourself more competitive, AARP has online courses that can help and some of the courses are free. For more information, click here.