When most people think about ageism discrimination in the workplace, they often imagine the victim as an older employee. After all, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination towards workers 40 or older concerning hiring, firing, promotions, or other employment aspects. But are older workers the only people who can experience ageism at work?
Broadly defined, ageism encompasses any prejudice or discrimination against a person based on their age. Practicing ageism against young workers, known as reverse ageism, happens when a company ignores their younger employees’ advantages to protect their older employees. As a result, many millennials face the same negative attitudes towards their age that were once reserved for senior workers. Here’s what you need to know about millennial ageism at work.
The new hurdles young workers face
According to Glassdoor’s 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Survey, just over half of American workers aged 18 to 34 say they have experienced or witnessed ageism at their jobs. Only 39% of workers aged 55 and older from that same survey reported experiencing or seeing ageism.
Like with senior employees, ageism towards millennials often stems from the harmful belief that a young worker isn’t qualified for their job because they are young and less experienced. There are also pervasive stereotypes against the millennial generation in the workforce, such as that they are entitled, difficult to train and uncommitted despite evidence to the contrary.
As a result, many young workers face immense challenges both finding and keeping stable, full-time work. Despite being more productive and cost-effective, young workers are often the first to be laid off I a company’s effort to prioritize and protect senior workers.
How employers can help
While federal law only protects workers over a certain age, it’s important to remember that ageism can go both ways in the workforce. Employers have a responsibility to recognize when ageism and reverse ageism are occurring in the workplace and take the steps necessary to protect their employees. Maintaining a positive work environment free of any discrimination isn’t just good for your employees’ well-being, but for your business as well.