older woman at computer corrected by younger woman The lost opportunity costs incurred bynot hiring experienced older workers can result in a workforcethat's definitely not as knowledgeable, committed or wise. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Companies attempting to attract young workers may be shootingthemselves in the foot by discriminating against older workers, boththose who are already employed and those who are seeking work.

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And the problem isn't just expensive on both sides of theequation, but also underreported, according to the Hiscox Ageism in the Workplace Study—making itdifficult to fix. The results of the study aren't as thorough asthey could be, since it only it surveyed 400 U.S. adults aged 40and older who were employed full time, which means that part-timersand those attempting to find work did not provide input into theresults. That means the problem is likely even more extensive thanthe survey results reflect.

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However, said results are gloomy enough as it is, with thesurvey reporting the costs to employers of demotivatedemployees—those who have been discriminated against—and a loss of areservoir of knowledge when older workers are shown the door.

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In addition, the lost opportunity costs incurred by not hiringexperienced older workers can result in a workforce that'sdefinitely not as knowledgeable, committed or wise.

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Then there's the actual dollar cost of settling agediscrimination charges filed with the EEOC, which between 2010 and2018 amounted to $810.4 million—a big chunk of change.

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Older employees feeling the sting of discrimination in theworkplace feel held back, with raises and promotions denied themand their career track stalled—something that will follow them allthe way into retirement, assuming they ever get there.

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As older workers seek to remain in the workplace longer, to financiallyshore up their retirement savings, they're finding it harder andharder to do so—and, says the report, they will "typically endurethe longest period of unemployment compared to other age groups andwill likely take a significant pay cut if they becomere-employed."

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Yet the whole problem is underreported. Even though 43 percentof respondents said they left a company because they eitherexperienced or witnessed age discrimination, that doesn't mean theytook their concerns to people in authority.

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Only 40 percent said they filed a charge or complaint; 75percent of those did so with their employer, but just 48 percentdid so with a state or local agency or the EEOC.

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In fact, 54 percent said they didn't file a complaint becausethey feared repercussions resulting in a hostile work environment,and 24 percent said they didn't know how to file a complaint.

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Witnesses to ageism don't report, either, with 37 percent sayingthey saw it happen but 51 percent saying they said nothing; 62percent of witnesses said they were afraid of retaliation from theboss if they did report.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.