Ageism: the forgotten form of discrimination

Ageism doesn’t get the headlines that other -isms do, but it’s just as prevalent in the workplace as any of the other forms of discrimination.

I’m actually quite good at my job. But my new supervisor has decided I’m not meeting  his standards.

During the past semester, I earned student ratings of 4.7 out of five, which is about as good as a professor can get. But it’s apparently not good enough.

My new chairman has taken away the office I had for the past decade and assigned me an inferior one. He doesn’t let me teach the courses I’d want to teach. He gets angry when I don’t volunteer enough. He dismisses almost any suggestion I make.

Despite having three knee surgeries, I had to go through an exhaustive process to get a designation as physically disabled so I didn’t have to teach three-hour-long classes at night.

I was recently offered a buyout—one that I refused to take because I actually like what I do.

The message is clear, but it’s difficult to fight legally. I joined the incredibly leftist teachers’ union because it got so bad.

Unfortunately, my experience is not uncommon. The Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons has found that age discrimination is widespread.

Nearly two out of three workers ages 45 and older have seen or experienced age discrimination on the job, according to the results of a wide-ranging AARP workplace survey. Among the 61 percent of respondents who reported age bias, 91 percent said they believe that such discrimination is common.

To learn more about what older workers think about workplace issues ranging from age discrimination to income to interactions with coworkers, AARP surveyed 3,900 people over age 45 who either were employed or looking for work. The overall results of the Value of Experience survey show that while most older Americans continue to work for financial reasons, they also want to be in roles in which they gain personal fulfillment and respect. Some survey participants believe that the prevalence of age bias could affect both of those career goals.

For example, 16 percent of respondents believe they did not get a job they applied for, 12 percent said they had been passed over for a promotion, and 7 percent said they had been laid off, fired, or forced out of a job — all because of age discrimination.

Among survey participants who thought it was somewhat likely they could lose their job in the next year, 33 percent said they felt they were vulnerable because of their age. And 76 percent of all respondents said age bias could mean it would take them longer than three months to find a new position.

Fortunately, it is difficult to fire me. But others aren’t so lucky. It’s a serious problem that few want to acknowledge—let alone fix.