The San Francisco Federal Reserve recently did one of the largest-ever studies on age discrimination, and discovered that age discrimination not only still exists, but that it is worse for women than for men. The study found that despite the fact that federal laws were passed decades ago that prohibited age discrimination, it is still very prevalent in the workplace.

In the study, researchers created resumes for fake job applicants with identical skills. The resumes were created for three age groups – 29 to 31, 49 to 51, and 64 to 66. The fake resumes were submitted to jobs in fields that have large numbers of low-skilled workers of all age ranges. The study only looked at low-skilled positions because researchers thought that in other fields, employers may be more familiar with applicants and, therefore, may not respond realistically.

The researchers applied on behalf of more than 40,000 fake individuals to over 13,000 positions in 12 cities in 11 states. They submitted women’s resumes for secretarial positions and men’s resumes to janitorial or security positions. They chose fields with large numbers of workers that tended to have older employees.

The results were not surprising to many older job applicants. For all of the applications submitted, young and middle-aged job seekers had higher callback rates than older job seekers. Older women faced even more discrimination than older men. The callback rate for the oldest fake job seekers for secretarial jobs was 47 percent lower than the rate for women in the youngest age group. In retail positions, the callback rate for the youngest women versus the older women was a 36 percent difference. For men in retail, there was a 30 percent difference in callback rates between younger men and older men. The study did not examine the reasons older women suffered more than older men, although some expect it has to do with appearance.

Unfortunately, because of inadequate savings and a decrease in companies offering pensions, researchers say that many older Americans will continue to be forced to stay in the workplace  as they are. It’s been estimated that over half of U.S. households are at risk of having a lower standard of living in retirement. Many lawmakers are considering offering incentives for people to work longer, but that may not be helpful if older workers are unable to obtain jobs in the first instance.

Under both federal and state laws, age discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Age discrimination means treating either an applicant or an employee less favorably because of his or her age. The federal law that prohibits age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and it only forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. Younger workers are not protected from age discrimination – it is not illegal for an employer to favor an older worker over a younger worker, but it is illegal to favor a younger worker over an older worker.

In addition, harassment in the workplace based on age is also illegal under federal and state law. Harassment includes offensive remarks about someone’s age, although teasing and offhand comments are often do not rise to the level of unlawful conduct. Typically, harassment occurs when the behavior is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that job applicants and employees should not be treated any differently because of age. If you have been the victim of age discrimination or age harassment in the Bay area, call Micha Liberty, Oakland employment discrimination attorney at 510-645-1000. She works with clients who have been the victims of illegal discrimination and harassment. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.

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