Ageism is defined as stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. The term encompasses two concepts: a) a socially constructed way of thinking about older persons based on negative attitudes and stereotypes about aging; and b) a tendency to structure society, or from a work perspective, a tendency to structure the workplace based on an assumption that everyone is young. The result of such stereotyping and assumption of youth is that society and workplaces fail to respond appropriately to the real needs of older persons. Ageism has the ability to impact an individual’s confidence, job prospects, financial situation and quality of life. Employment Equity legislations protect persons over the age of 40 from ageism in employment, but it is often difficult to prove.
Age discrimination is when an employer treats an individual unfairly or unfavorably because of their age. It is also unlawful to harass an individual because of their age. Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about an employee’s age. An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, despite their age, can be illegal if it has a negative impact on employees or job applicants who are 40 or older. Employers are prohibited from hiring, terminating, and promoting or deciding an employee’s compensation based on their age. Oftentimes, however, it can be difficult to determine whether an employer’s actions were motivated by ageism or by a belief that another person can perform a particular job better.