‘Want Ads’ and Age Discrimination

Are you a recent college graduate … Pulte Mortgage (a subsidiary of Pulte Homes) is always looking for energetic and motivated individuals who are ready to take the first step in building a long-term mortgage career! – Simply Hired, 6/26/14.

“We are currently seeking an associate with 2-3 (MAXIMUM) years of Labor and Employment experience.” – Craig’s List,  6/26/14

Anyone who doesn’t think that age discrimination is rampant and unaddressed in American society should take a look at the “want ads.”

An easy and obvious way that employers  discriminate against older applicants is to require job applicants  to be recent college graduates or to have a maximum amount of experience.  These types of advertisements are seen on most if not all  Internet hiring sites.

One reason  the U.S. Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967 was to prohibit  job advertisements  that barred applicants over a certain age from applying. At that time, one-half of all private-sector job openings explicitly barred applicants over the age of 55 and one-quarter barred workers over the age of 45.  More than 60 percent of low-skilled industrial jobs had age cut-offs between 35 and 49 years of age, and 13 percent of sales jobs were limited to workers under the age of 35.

Imagine being 35 years old and barred from applying for a sales job!  Wait a minute.  You don’t have to. You can be barred from applying  for a sales job today at the age of 35 if you have more than two or three years of experience.

These types of advertisements would seem to violate the ADEA , which bars employers and employment agencies from discriminating against “any individual because of such individual’s age, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of such individual’s age … .”  However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not chosen to act in this area.

Some will argue that these ads are not discriminatory because applicants of any age could be recent college graduates or have less than five years experience. In reality, the vast majority of recent college graduates are in their 20s.  These ads have a disparate or disproportionate impact on older workers; they are obviously designed to attract young applicants and discourage older applicants from applying.

There are many reasons that an older applicant might want to apply for what some would consider to be an “entry level” job.  Possibly it’s a mother re-entering the workforce after a hiatus. Maybe it’s the only job vacancy in the applicant’s commuting area.  Maybe the applicant wants to take his or her career in a new direction or doesn’t place importance on earning a higher salary.  It could be as simple as the job appeals to the applicant’s particular interests.

It is ironic that we are approaching  the 50th anniversary of the ADEA and hiring agencies and employers are still  discriminating on the basis of age with impunity.

If you have a story about age discrimination in hiring that you share, please share.

Comments

  1. Thanks Ellen – and I agree that energetic is a big tip off!

  2. I am 58 years old and have a great amount of experience in my chosen field (Enterprise Performance or Asset Management Software implementation and management; Maintenance Management, etc.), more than 20 years. Yet I am finding it almost impossible to even land an interview. I have run accross the aforementioned pre-employment age-related questions ON EVERY APPLICATION/QUESTIONNAIRE! What can be done? Is there anyone to contact regarding action … EEOC? Our Congressmen/Women? The “President?”…..

    • This is a very insidious problem – a blatant example of age discrimination in the workplace. It is not in itself illegal. I suggest contacting all of the above to complain. Right now the EEOC, Congress and the President are steadfastly ignoring the epidemic of age discrimination that is relegating older workers to chronic unemployment, low-wage part-time work and early retirement. Pat ps-I mention this problem in my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.

  3. As a 60 year old mechanical engineer and am looking for a job, I have concluded that age discrimination is rampant. I graduated in the top 5% of my class and have a stellar record in product design, including many patents that lead to profitable products. I decided to quit my job a few years ago to pursue my own business. The business didn’t work out and now I find I’m virtually unemployable and invisible. I’ve gotten two interviews in the last 6 months and many of the jobs I applied for seemed perfect for someone with my skills and experience. I’ll be writing the useless politicians an doing some thinking about this. It seems that the record trails of employers would easily prove the point.

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