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Written by

Tiffany Clark

Reviewed by

VidCruiter Editorial Team

Last Modified

Apr 17, 2024
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Ageism is a term referring to discrimination in the workplace that can occur because of an individual’s age. While ageism can affect both younger and older people, older people are disproportionately more affected by ageism, which is sometimes called age bias


Two primary types of ageism can take place in the workplace.


  • Institutional ageism occurs when workplaces perpetuate ageism through policies or actions. Ageism can be either explicit (intentional) or implicit (unintentional), often including prejudice and stereotyping. 

  • Interpersonal ageism occurs when one individual discriminates against another, usually older, individual. Reasons can vary, but interpersonal ageism usually occurs because the offending person assumes that the older person is unprogressive, unskilled in technology, or slow at keeping up with a job’s day-to-day demands.


Moreover, people with outdated assumptions and misperceptions about older workers frequently disregard the value of an older worker’s depth of experience and accumulated knowledge.  


The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits ageism against individuals aged 40 and older, and this law is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ADEA does not provide protection for people under the age of 40, but some states have their own laws in place that prohibit age discrimination against younger workers. 


An investigation by AARP found that there are three main areas where illegal age discrimination occurs in the workplace:


  • Recruitment and hiring: Employers favor younger workers and disqualify older workers because of their age. In some cases, employers will deny older workers a job because they are “overqualified.” 

  • Workplace bias: Older workers are less likely to be promoted, are overlooked for promotions, and have fewer training opportunities. Moreover, older workers are frequently harassed. 

  • Termination: When a company trims its budget or “revitalizes” its workforce, older employees are frequently encouraged to retire or targeted for layoffs. 



A hiring manager reviews job applications and notices that one applicant has a much earlier birthdate than many other applicants. If a birthdate is absent, a hiring manager may use the year the applicant graduated from college or began their work history as a gauge to attempt to guess the person’s age. 


Suppose the hiring manager uses this information to dismiss a qualified applicant in favor of a younger applicant with the same credentials and experience. In that case, the hiring manager is complicit in workplace ageism practice.


Related Terms

Age Bias

is a phrase commonly used interchangeably with ageism, but ageism is a practice, while age bias is a prepossession or prejudice. Age bias can refer to prejudice against either older or younger employees.

Age Discrimination

is a term commonly used interchangeably with ageism or age bias but usually applies to legal considerations. Age discrimination is deliberate, while age bias is often an unconscious bias.

Affinity Bias

is a term that refers to the unconscious bias that exists when a person is naturally inclined to favor someone who shares things in common with them. In some cases, affinity bias can lead to favoritism.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

are frequently grouped together because the three concepts are interconnected. When used in combination, a complete impact emerges. The three words describe values that organizations strive to embody so that theory can meet the needs of employees from all walks of life.

Diversity Hiring

is the conscious practice of creating a diverse workforce by hiring employees from diverse backgrounds, including sexual orientations, races, national origins, and genders.

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