Millennials are often derided in popular culture as being overly consumed by the digital age and largely defined as the entitled youth. But as of January 1, 2021, the oldest among them (born in 1981) turned 40. As our Los Angeles age discrimination lawyers can explain, that’s old enough to file claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment ACT (ADEA) of 1967.
Just like every other generation before them, millennials aren’t forever young. In fact, age discrimination is already facing some millennials – women in particular. We may see this become a pivotal battleground as the nation recovers from the economic crisis of coronavirus, given that discrimination is often worse during and immediately after periods of recession.
Of course, most people who are just turning 40-years-old aren’t going to bear the brunt of age discrimination in the workforce. Still, those who will tend to see it first are women.
As an example, consider the recent study published in the Journal of Political Economy. Study authors from the University of California at Irvine sent employers across the U.S. 40,000 resumes and calculated the number of responses they received, and sorted them by age of the applicant. The researchers found that when women reached age 50, they received far fewer responses compared to their younger peers. Men who were 50, on the other hand, did not appear to be affected by this. However, by age 65, both male and female applicants received far fewer callbacks.
Similar results were cited in a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, wherein researchers sought resume ratings from 150 test subjects on 40 different resumes. What they found was that on resumes of female “applicants” over the age of 36, the ratings fell sharply. For men, the ratings didn’t fall until they reached about age 50. Interestingly in that study, one notable exception was that discrimination against Black women and men was actually strongest prior to the age of 40. Once workers reached middle age, the resumes of Black workers were actually rated higher compared to those of White employees who had the same qualifiers.
Age Discrimination Gets Worse During Economic Downturns
Discrimination faced by older workers and millennials is only expected to get worse during and after the economic recession spurred by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, when it’s an employers’ market, with so many unemployed, desperate prospective workers, companies can take more chances in disregarding entire groups of workers. Plus, those who are already at the company are less likely to complain of discrimination if they’re passed over for promotions or paid less. They know the alternative is being out of a job – though that doesn’t make the employer’s actions in this regard any more legal.
During the Great Recession, a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate was positively correlated with a nearly 3.4 percent increase in ADEA wrongful termination allegations and a 1.4 percent increase in ADEA hiring violation claims. For older women, a 1 percent increase in a location’s rate of unemployment resulted in a 15 percent reduction in applicant callbacks. The one good news is that the success rate of ADEA claims is also higher during a recession. On the flip side, this means the violations that are occurring are more likely to be not only widespread but blatant.
When employers are evaluating resumes, they’re trying to find someone who will be the best fit for the job based on the outlined demographics and qualifications. Sometimes, this leads to discrimination. For example, younger Black workers may be more likely to face discrimination by employers who assume that a young Black male applicants is more likely to have a criminal history and be less reliable. In the case of gender and age, employers may assume a woman in her 40s is more likely to have children in elementary or middle school, giving her less flexibility in her schedule.
Beyond that, older women are stereotyped as not only less flexible, but less physically able, less attractive and poor with technology skills. Even though these stereotypes are inaccurate and unfair, they occur all the time.