Being treated differently as a candidate or employee because of your age can be problematic, creating obstacles that can harm your ability to advance your career. While discriminating against individuals who are 40 years old and older is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), that doesn’t mean it never occurs. 

This form of discrimination is prohibited at the federal level. If a company allows a person’s age to influence hiring, firing, job assignment, salary, promotion, training, layoff, or benefits decisions based on an employee’s status as being age 40 or older, they have broken the law. 

However, while an incident may appear to be age discrimination on the surface, that isn’t always the case. At times, a person’s experience level – not technically their age – is affecting various hiring and employment decisions. 

If you are wondering whether your workplace is guilty of age discrimination or if experience discrimination is actually the cause, here’s what you need to know. 

A Look at Experience Discrimination 

While age discrimination focuses on how old the candidate or employee is, and is illegal if the worker is 40 or older, experience discrimination is different. It looks at how much experience a person brings to the table as well as other points, like salary expectations, to determine how opportunities are given out. 

Today, millennials make up the majority of the workforce. While they are still often viewed as being younger workers, the oldest members are getting incredibly close to their 40th birthday. Millennials are no longer the inexperienced professionals they once were. Instead, they are highly skilled and working their way solidly into the management ranks. 

Since millennials are crossing into higher-level jobs at a faster rate, this creates more competition for baby boomers and Gen Xers in the workforce, who are also well into their careers. Additionally, since millennials are newer to this employment level, their salary expectations may be lower, even if they are bringing the same skills to the table as a member of Gen X or a baby boomer. 

Essentially, millennials may be just as capable but significantly less expensive. This can lead companies to make hiring decisions based on them meeting the experience requirement minimums and being happy with lower levels of compensation. 

Is It Age or Experience Discrimination? 

Figuring out whether a company is guilty of age discrimination or if experience discrimination is actually to blame can be tricky. However, there are some key signs that could indicate age is the deciding factor. 

For example, if all of the professional development opportunities are going to younger workers, even though you have similar capabilities and reputations, you could benefit from the training, and you’ve made your desire to acquire new skills known, it could be age discrimination. 

Age discrimination requires the company made its decision at least partially because of the employee’s age. If that is not a factor, there is a decent chance you’re actually dealing with experience discrimination instead. 

If you’d like to learn more, the team at TempStaff can help. Contact us to speak with one of our skilled staff members today and see how our workplace equality expertise can benefit you. 



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