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Age discrimination doesn’t just affect the elderly

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Firm News

Everyone knows the law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on several different factors. These include race, gender, national origin, disability, religion and age. However, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) points out, the restrictions on age discrimination have their limits.

The EEOC does not enforce any laws that ban age discrimination against people under 40. But people under 40 are not immune from age discrimination. In fact, a recent survey suggests Gen Z job seekers may be among those most likely to face age discrimination.

Managers often hold bad opinions of Gen Z applicants

The people at Resume Builder, a commercial resource for job seekers, recently surveyed more than 1,300 managers. An overwhelming 74% singled out Gen Z employees as their least favorite. While these managers may have had personal experiences with some Gen Z employees, their opinions spilled out across the whole group of employees and applicants born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

According to the survey, managers found Gen Z workers:

  • Lazier
  • Less motivated
  • Less resilient
  • Too easily offended
  • Unskilled

The problem, of course, is that sweeping characterizations of an entire generation rarely function at the individual level. Individual Gen Z applicants may be hardworking, skilled, motivated and resilient, but they face an uphill battle with these managers. Indeed, the managers openly declared they prefer to hire Millenial or Gen X applicants.

Some states have laws against reverse age discrimination

As a federal worker or as an applicant for a federal job, you hope to receive attention for your merits. You don’t want employers to overlook you for others simply because of your age. After all, you can work hard and demonstrate your abilities, but you cannot change your age.

So, if the EEOC does not enforce federal laws against age discrimination under 40, what protections, if any, do you have? The answer depends largely on where you live or apply for work.

Fifteen states, along with the District of Columbia, have their own laws that ban age discrimination against people under 40. These laws vary by state, and some only apply to companies with 15 or more employees. These states include:

  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont

The rules for federal agencies can be complicated by the interactions between state and federal laws. However, government contractors must generally follow both federal and state laws. Applicants for these positions might expect the protections afforded by state laws against reverse age discrimination.

Hiring and firing aren’t the only concerns

Naturally, managerial opinions about an entire generation of workers are likely to carry beyond hiring and firing. They almost certainly bleed into performance reviews and discipline. And though the laws against age discrimination may have their limits, federal laws ensure that federal employees of all ages have the right to respond to proposed discipline.

If you work hard and do good work, you deserve judgment based on your performance, not on your age. Federal laws may not have fully anticipated age discrimination against younger workers and applicants, but you can prevent small knocks against you from adding up. Negative performance reviews and disciplinary records can hold you back over the course of your career. The right responses to these things can help you keep your career on track.


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