In theory, older individuals seeking employment or promotions are protected from discrimination by federal and often state laws. In practice, however, age discrimination still occurs with alarming regularity.

In 2016, for instance, there were 20,857 age discrimination complaints that were filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Why this matters so much

With people living longer lives, they frequently outlive their retirement nest eggs or don’t have enough tucked away in the first place. They are forced to work longer into their senior years or return to the workforce to supplement their dwindling funds.

Age discrimination that prevents them from getting hired or being promoted can further reduce their quality of life and make them struggle harder to find or retain the gainful employment they require to meet their needs.

Digital applications can discriminate

You might think that digital job postings and applications would make it more difficult to discriminate against applicants based on their age. After all, when you apply online, no one sees you so it can be difficult to gauge an applicant’s age.

Unfortunately, it appears that the digital age has made it even easier for discrimination against older workers to flourish.

Researchers discovered that older job applicants received markedly fewer interviews and callbacks than their younger counterparts with commensurate skill sets.

A Tulane University assistant professor of economics who co-authored the critical study stated, “It’s just age; it doesn’t have to do with experience.”

50 years ago, a change

Back in 1967, Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Among other protections and prohibitions, the law stated the following:

“(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual . . . because of such individual’s age;

(2) to limit, segregate, or classify employees . . . because of . . . age; or

(3) to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter.

(b) It shall be unlawful . . . to refer for employment, or other­wise to discriminate against, any individual because of . . . age.”

How employers get around it

Employers may use drop-down menus going back just to the 1980s, which screens out those listing work experience prior to that decade. They might also seek “digital natives,” the catch-phrase for those who came of age during the years when computer use was ubiquitous.

How you can fight back

Building a winnable age discrimination case can be challenging. But sometimes, it is the only proper response to being denied a job or a promotion solely based on your age. An experienced age discrimination attorney can be an invaluable help in your quest for justice.