How to Prove Age Discrimination?

HCquestionMany experienced healthcare professionals have written to us, saying they have faced age discrimination in their pursuit of a new job. Although it’s difficult to “prove” age discrimination (you may not get the job because it’s not the “right fit”), here’s a comment posted from a member of our Health Callings community, and we thought you could help us respond:

“I just don’t get today’s employment situation. Employment in the healthcare field is supposedly exploding (thanks in part to Obamacare), some say there is a nursing shortage, and more medical coders and techy people are needed to support all the new electronic health records. But I can’t find a job, and the same is true for several of my former co-workers!!

Nine of us formed a ‘support group’ after we were laid off from a large clinic in central Florida. Each of us has a minimum of 10 years healthcare experience (personally, I have 18 years medical office experience), in varied fields from sonographer to lab tech. Our average age is 54. We’ve all been applying for jobs like crazy for the last six months, and none of us has yet to land a new job.

We believe we face age discrimination. In fact, when one of the former RNs finally got a job interview with a doctor’s office, the kind doctor said every so matter of factly, ‘We prefer a younger staff due to the pace of the workload.’ She didn’t get the job, and we all say she should file an age discrimination suit against this doctor. But how on earth can she prove the doctor said this? What’s the best way to prove age discrimination in a lawsuit?”

Dorthea, via email

What’s the best recourse when you face age discrimination? Post your comment below.


  1. BY Kellie Brown says:

    Where am I today: CNA and overworked, way under paid. No hope for more than a 10 percent raise and ABUSED. Age DISCRIMINATION … by giving better hours to the young and promotions to young. Every time we have a med tech position open, I am never informed and I applied online with the company two times for this and of course it goes to management to see. A kid comes in, gets it and gets every other FULL weekend off. We were told we'd be promoted from within. WELL GUESS WHO IS… med techs 19 yr old getting more pay. I end up doing all the physical hard work and cannot even go in memory care which is a better FIT FOR MY AGE yet I work harder than most. I have a friend 58 could not get ZERO but a CNA job at an assisted living with 18 yrs experience as medical assistant. Age discrimination is on the rise and the Gov is more worried about minorities getting a job. Hello its over, minorities have all the jobs. So lets get people back to work and job security 48 and above esp women.

  2. BY rex giron says:

    I felt that way too. We probably need a good lawyer's advice.

  3. BY Lisa Durnell says:

    I've experienced the same with 10 years medical office experience. I simply can't get employment. My age is 55! Sure, some of it may be due to the economy but this is just a terrible situation. I've lost hope.

  4. BY Sandy Alzaidi, LCSW says:

    I have about 15 solid years of home health social work, medical social work, mental health for seniors in their homes social work, and mental in locked psych. facilities, and some medical and hospice social work that were not actually 'Home Health Agencies' experience. I took off about ten years to raise my kids, who are all teen-agers now and I WANT to work!!

    I apply for jobs, get to the phone calls and the employers are LOVING my resume and we talk a long time about the position and we hit it off on the phone! And then……the interview. I walk in, they see I'm 54, a teeny bit over weight, and th door closes in their minds and I can see it!

    I hate it!! I was never overweight before I had kids, so I KNOW the difference between people accepting you as you are and people NOT accepting you as you are. And the age….it HAS to be the big kicker! It's just making me so discouraged!!

    I don't think there's a way to prove age discrimination except in that case where the person actually said, "We prefer a younger staff because of the pace of the office." That's pretty clear age discrimination. Otherwise….I wouldn't be able to prove anything! One interviewer told me my resume was definitely the strongest…..and we had a long interview…. but he didn't call back. So…..can I prove anything from that? I don't think so…just he 'clicked' better with the person he hired. It was going from a one person enterprise to a two person enterprise so he was going to hire whomever with he felt most comfortable. That's it.

  5. BY PilBustr says:

    I think what I expected with this initial story is kind of a "how to"… realizing that this can be a very complex issue and on a legal level, varies by state let alone, how do you prove it in the first place, It is one difficult issue to prove it when you are already working but maybe even a more intimidating hurdle to leap over when you are applying for positions.
    If you can break out an article somewhere that would be great but I guess we could also do a Search.

    • BY Joy Taylor Wolf says:

      Great feedback. We'll definitely get a "how-to" article up on the site about the topic.

  6. BY CJ says:

    Age discrimination is rampant to those of us over 50. I am a 59 year old Registered Respiratory Therapist with a Bachelors degree and almost thirty years experience. Most of the job interviews I've been on all want experienced professionals, but when they find out how much experience i have nobody wants to pay me what I'm worth therefore I become overqualified. I do work per-diem at a surgical center where I'm treated very well, it's just not enough hours and no benefits. I recently applied for a lead position in a hospital I worked at many years ago in another part of my state. A recruiter for the hospital whom I contacted informed me that my application was never received. That was a lie because I had electronic confirmation. I found out through the grapevine that the position went to a thirty year old who didn't have the credentials that was posted in the job listing. It's shameful how companies are treating older workers. Not only do many of us have the education, skills and credentials but experience, wisdom and maturity. But age discrimination is difficult to prove. I've come to the conclusion companies doesn't matter the field, don't want us.

  7. BY Frustrated R.T.(R)(CV) says:

    I know exactly where you are folks, I have almost 40 years of Radiologic Technology and Invasive Cardiology experience. Over 20 years in management Cannot even get a call back. Go figure!! Obamacare will do nothing but push the cost of healthcare through the clouds because people who cannot afford insurance will be forced to buy insurance that they can't get now because of the pre-existing clause. The insurance companies WILL pass those costs along to the people who buy the insurance. Can you say PAC?

  8. BY Kay Ellen says:

    There is no doubt that older nurses 40-55 are not being hired because of two obvious reasons. 1.Nurses are being forced to take unmanageable patient loads. Older nurses will speak up but just be told they should consider something different. They are then considered not team players and forced to leave. 2. They do not want to pay for experience but don’t realize that the older nurses are more in tuned to pts needs and how to provide care that increases pt satisfaction.

  9. BY Joy Taylor Wolf says:

    Here's another comment I received:

    My name is Sam. Yes, I have worked in the operating room for 23 years. In 2010 I got fired because the Director said "Sam you are too old for this job". This is it. No reason nothing. I got unemployment benefit for 18 months. I applied 187 places so far. They interview me they say good stuff about my experiences but they do not hire me. I am 52 years old. I strongly think this a subtle age discrimination. Now I am applying odd jobs. The effect is the same. When they find out about my age they turn me down. Now I have no income, no unemployment benefit(extension expired) and loosing my home. Soon I will be homeless.

    Thanks for supporting us and voicing our need.


  10. BY Fran RN says:

    I'm curious… in a post responding to "<a href="" target="_blank">Consider a Career as a Health Unit Coordinator</a>", the writer suggested the following questions on applications as being hidden ways to find out the age of those applying for a job:

    * When did you graduate from high school?
    What's the importance of when (and where) I went to high school? For that matter, even nursing school? If I'm being hired as a nurse for a nursing position then why not validate my experience by speaking to my previous employer? And validate my license to practice nursing by going to the nursing board website and looking it up?

    - List all dates of employment?
    Same thing! Contact my previous employer to verify I have worked there! Some employers also ask for 'experienced' individuals. To say I have thirty years experience also eludes to my age. (Too bad I can't ask, "How many years of experience do you need?")

    - Explain all gaps?
    Why? 'Personal Reasons' is not enough?

    - When did you get registered / licensed?
    Again, the fact that I HAVE a license should be enough. Go verify it!

    - What were your wages, start and finish?
    I have to laugh at that one because, usually, the next question will ask, "What is your salary request?" (Isn't that negotiated later?)

    Now, the outstanding red flag to me was the high school question. How is that not an indirect way to find out age? And, if there is any recruiter or HR person reading this, would you please explain the rationale for all of these need-to-know questions?

  11. BY Janice Theodoroff says:

    I worked in Human Service for over 20 years. I wanted to go into another career at 60 and went to dog grooming school and trained as a CNA for income to start a business. Working as a new CNA in a nursing home to get experience, I have found all the other CNAs treat me like a bad child. They tell me things in a gruff way and are constantly critical of everything I do. I got a bad 30 day evaluation, something I've never had. The work is hard and I hope to do private duty once I am trained, but I don't know how much negativity I can take from these younger CNAs. I have a bachelors degree and I am not stupid. Is it just my age, or are most CNAs bad to each other?

  12. BY Gervacio A. says:

    I feel everybody's pain. I just turned 60 and have been applying at different places that are closer to where I live. Currently, I live 90 miles away from work, so I am driving 180 miles per day. I have an MBA and am currently a PhD candidate and have 30 years of experience on my field. The two places that turned me down, explained that they have more qualified candidates, whereas the other explained that they were looking for someone who knows how to do other things which were not related to the job I was applying for. I have been monitoring my application at this one place that I applied to, and HR submitted it to the interviewing supervisor but I still never got an interview. It was shame because this place was supposedly a well-regarded organization nationwide.