21% of U.S. Workers Over 40 Claim They Have Experienced Age Bias, Insurer Says

August 13, 2019

Age discrimination affects more than one-fifth of U.S. workers over the age of 40, a particular number of which are men, according to a survey from specialty insurer, which warns companies to be mindful of the related workplace liabilities.

“Age discrimination in the workplace is an increasingly serious issue for businesses and employees as older generations continue to maintain their professional careers longer than their predecessors,” Patrick Mitchell, Management Liability Product head at Hiscox USA, said in prepared remarks. “Discrimination of any kind brings serious reputational and financial risks to any business and can negatively impact a worker’s career trajectory.”

Hiscox found that 21 percent of U.S. workers age 40 and older have experienced workplace discrimination due to their age. They also added that age 51 is the point at which they’re most likely to experience discrimination, according to the 2019 Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study. The study surveyed 400 full-time U.S. workers age 40 and over.

While one-in-five respondents said they have faced age discrimination in the workplace themselves, only 40 percent filed a charge or complaint. Fear of a report creating a hostile work environment (54 percent) and a lack of knowledge on how to initiate a complaint (24 percent) were among the reasons cited.

Men are most likely to feel that getting older hurts their careers. Approximately, 43 percent of men said they feel that their age has been a barrier to finding a new job since turning 40 years old, the Hiscox study found. That compares to 30 percent of women who felt the same. Just under 40 percent of men reported that age frustrated their career advancement since turning 40, compared to 24 percent of women.

Other findings from the study:

  • About 51 percent of workers who witnessed age discrimination against another employee did not report it, and 62 percent said they didn’t speak up because they feared employer retaliation.
  • 80 percent of respondents who experienced age discrimination reported that it had impacted their career trajectory.
  • About 43 percent of respondents reported that they had left a company due to experiencing or witnessing age discrimination.
  • About 67 percent of respondents 65 or younger plan to continue working after they turn 66, and 62 percent of all workers did not receive any form of age discrimination training in the previous 12 months.

Hiscox said that age discrimination can be prevented by initiatives including workforce training and by responding to claims “immediately and thoroughly.”

More Younger Workers Think Economy Is Hurt by Older Workers Not Retiring

Hiscox does not identify the sources of the discrimination. But generational differences in the workplace may explain some of the ageist climate that older workers are feeling.

A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that workers under the age of 50 were significantly more likely to view America’s aging workforce as a negative development when compared with their older counterparts. About 4 in 10 respondents ages 18 to 49 and 44% of the youngest respondents ages 18 to 29 said they consider the trend to be a bad thing for American workers. Just 14% of those age 60 and over said the same.

Research is mixed on the aging workforce’s overall impact on the U.S. economy. Adam Ozimek, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics, says his prior research efforts have suggested a growing population of older workers can slow productivity and ultimately hamper wage growth for the rest of the labor market.

But he says there’s little evidence to suggest that the presence of older workers is “crowding younger workers out of promotions,” noting that many of the workers who would naturally move up and replace positions currently held by baby boomers are not millennials but rather middle-aged members of Generation X.

“In anxious times, we look for scapegoats. And old people are a ready scapegoat, especially if you are forced out of having a public presence or are forced (out of a job),” says Ashton Applewhite, a New York-based writer and ageism activist.

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