15 Signs You’ve Been a Victim of Age Discrimination in Your Workplace

Could age discrimination be sabotaging your professional success?
Updated Oct. 4, 2023
Fact checked
Young employee arguing with senior boss

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Age discrimination is illegal in the workplace. But if you're an older worker, there are subtle ways that an employer might treat you differently simply because of your age.

If you recognize anything on this list, it might be time to talk to your boss — or to begin looking for a job that can help you get ahead financially while receiving the respect you deserve.

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You hear age-related comments

EuStock/Adobe english businessman stressed at work

You can try to be friendly to co-workers or others in your office, but it can be difficult when they take digs at your age.

It’s OK to speak up for yourself and mention that these comments make you uncomfortable. If the issue persists, take your concerns to someone like your boss or the human resources department, where it can be addressed quickly.

Layoffs include a large number of older workers

Monster Ztudio/Adobe senior businessman retired at work

Many companies initiate layoffs at some point to downsize the workforce. 

It’s not illegal to include older workers in a group of employees being laid off, but it can be discriminatory if a large proportion of the layoffs are for older workers who are replaced by younger workers.

Be wary if you see this type of layoff occur in your office, as it could be a sign you might be targeted next.

You get turned down for a promotion

Nadia L/peopleimages.com/Adobe businessman stressed besides window at office

If you're in line for a promotion, seeing it go to someone else can be disappointing. In many cases, that is just how things go. Even if the other worker is younger, it’s possible they got the promotion simply because they're a better fit.

But if you notice a pattern of older workers losing out to younger workers at promotion time, it could be a sign of ageism.

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You’re passed over for projects

Liubomir/Adobe shocked senior business woman using smartphone

You might be a victim of ageism if you are a team player who is always passed over when important projects roll around.

Age is especially likely to be a factor if younger workers consistently get the best assignments.

Co-workers doubt your capabilities

D Lahoud/peopleimages.com/Adobe business woman experiencing burnout at work

You’ve likely been working with technology long enough to know how to answer emails, look up answers online, or respond to texts on your smartphone.

So, it can be frustrating to have co-workers question your ability to use technology simply because of your age.

New reviews don’t match previous feedback

insta_photos/Adobe senior business woman suffering from headache

Perhaps your boss praised your hard work or ability to reach goals in the past. Maybe they even gave you high marks in all of your annual reviews.

But if your feedback has become increasingly negative — even though your job performance hasn’t changed — it could be a sign of ageism.

Only younger people are hired

nenetus/Adobe multi ethnic colleagues talking at office

When your company advertises new positions, watch closely to see who gets those roles. New hires should be from a variety of age groups.

On the other hand, you should be suspicious if only younger people are hired for the positions while older workers are interviewed but not offered a job.

You’re being isolated

motortion/Adobe businessman angry in meeting room

Maybe nobody tells you about a meeting or forgets to invite you to a team-building session. Or perhaps your desk is moved to a different location, farther away from the rest of the team.

Ask to be included in more meetings and see if you can have your desk moved back to the main area of work. You’ll know you’re being discriminated against if your boss or co-workers don’t seem to want to include you in team efforts.

You aren’t recognized for meeting goals

offsuperphoto/Adobe senior businessman using laptop for work

It’s important to recognize employees when they reach milestones. Do younger colleagues get recognition for their accomplishments while all you get is silence?

It’s a red flag when younger workers are recognized, and you don’t get the spotlight for doing the same work.

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Your requests for training aren’t addressed

Liubomir/Adobe senior male host on live show

Training and continuing education can be essential to keeping your skills up to date.

If your requests for training are denied while the company seems only too happy to grant similar requests to younger workers, it might be due to your age.

You get the easy stuff

fizkes/Adobe tired senior man taking off glasses

If you’re always up for a challenge and ready to take on a tough assignment, it can be frustrating to see the plum projects going to younger workers while you get the fluff work.

It may be because your boss or other higher-ups don’t think you can take on the challenging projects because of your age.

You’re pushed to take the buyout

Elnur/Adobe colleagues happy about man leaving office

Some companies offer buyouts to employees as a way to get workers to separate from the company voluntarily.

If you've been doing a great job and suddenly are pushed to take a buyout, it could be because of your age.

You get demoted

fizkes/Adobe senior business woman frustrated at laptop

Organizations reshuffle or restructure from time to time. But it’s never a good sign when you're demoted.

If you're an older worker who's suddenly demoted — especially if you’ve been in a role for a long time — it might be a sign that your responsibilities are being reduced because of your age.

You're singled out for criticism

Nkalipho M/peopleimages.com/Adobe businessman arguing with colleagues at work

There is nothing wrong with the boss suggesting ways you can improve your work. But keep an eye out if you think your boss’s constructive criticism is simply negative and unhelpful.

If you feel like you've become a target of your boss’s negativity in a way that younger workers have not, it might be a sign that you are a victim of ageism.

It’s hinted that you should retire

Peter Maszlen/Adobe senior man focused on laptop

Some people want to retire early. But no one should feel like they're forced to stop working simply because of their age.

Unfortunately, some companies might subtly hint that it’s time to leave by stripping you of responsibilities or making you feel less included in the company’s mission.

Bottom line

Stock 4 You/Adobe cheerful businessman using laptop at work

If you notice signs that you’re being treated differently due to your age, it might be time to re-evaluate your position.

Consider talking to someone you trust at the company. You also may want to turn to your human resources department as a possible source for help.

In addition, it might be time to start looking at other options. Many companies value older employees, and you'll likely feel more at home in such a workplace. 

Maybe you'll even get a large raise that will help you boost your bank account until you're ready to retire.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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