Being “Overqualified” May Be a Thin Excuse for Age Discrimination

New York Age Discrimination Attorneys Work to Protect “Overqualified” Job Applicants

New York age discrimination attorneys understand how difficult it can be to prove discrimination. Age discrimination is unique in that it does not receive as much attention as other forms of discrimination such as sex discrimination and disability discrimination. Age discrimination cases are litigated with less frequency than other protected categories and receive little nationwide press coverage.

Many victims of age discrimination want nothing more than a job. According to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) analysis, “it took Americans 55 and older an average of 49.7 weeks after leaving one job to land another. For Americans under 55, the average was 33.9 weeks.” Among the respondents to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, “55 percent of those 50 and older who have looked for work during the past five years characterized their search as “difficult,” while 43 percent thought employers were concerned about their age. About one-third of them were told they were “overqualified.””

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) Prohibits Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it unlawful to make a hiring, firing or other employment decision based on age and protects workers who are at least 40 years old. The Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the administrative agency that oversees discrimination claims. Despite the agency’s best efforts, age discrimination and age bias still exist when it comes to hiring and firing workers.

Employers and potential employers who know that they will likely never be held accountable for their discriminatory hiring activities. Employers may disguise their refusal to hire applicants because of age by using the term “over-qualified” to describe older ones. Applicants don’t often file claims against prospective employers because they don’t have a lot of information about the hiring process. They don’t know much, if anything, about other applicants or the candidate, eventually hired which can make proving age discrimination exceptionally difficult. Being told you are overqualified is, absent additional evidence, insufficient to prove age discrimination.

However, if you applied for a job and a prospective employer informed you that you were overqualified, it may be worth considering whether your age was the real reason you did not get the job. Our experienced attorneys at Leeds Brown understand the subtleties of age discrimination and know what evidence to seek to help prove that your advanced age was the reason you did not get the job. We have recovered successful outcomes for thousands of employees over the years and have what it takes to fight for workplace fairness and win. Speak to the New York age discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown to learn more about your rights.

Does Overqualified Mean Too Old?

If an employer does not hire you because he or she says you are overqualified, does it mean that you are too old? Perhaps not. But, it does indicate that they are thinking about your age and the lengthy amount of time you have spent in the workforce – long enough to have too much experience for the job. For example, if a 50-year-old applies for a job as an accountant and has 25 years of experience as an accountant followed by ten years of experience as the supervisor of an accounting department, this individual is likely qualified to be an accountant. But is he or she overqualified?

Remember, overqualified is not the same as unqualified. If you are unqualified for the job regardless of your age, the employer has every right not to hire you for the position. Being overqualified indicates that there may be more to the situation than meets the eye.

When a potential employer calls a candidate over-qualified, like in the scenario above, they are making assumptions about the individual’s abilities and preferences. The assumptions may originate from underlying age bias. For example, many employers assume that “over-qualified” or older employees will be bored with the work or will have trouble answering to a supervisor who may be younger. In the case above, the employer may worry that someone with ten years as a supervisor would be unhappy as an ordinary accountant.

Unfortunately, such assumptions affect older, more experienced workers who are often the most eager to secure jobs and the hardest working.

When is Being Called Overqualified Truly Age Discrimination?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination. Being told you are overqualified is not independently evidence of unlawful behavior or policies. However, there may be other indications that a company is discriminating based on age. Consider the following interview questions:

  • How would you feel working for a boss who is younger than you are?
  • How would you feel being in an office with people who are just out of college?
  • I assume you won’t be able to work late nights?
  • Don’t you think you will be bored with this job?
  • Don’t you feel like this may be taking a step back for you?
  • Will it be weird for you to have to use excel to keep records instead of a paper and pencil?
  • How will you feel going from a manager at your old job to an ordinary employee? Will it be hard not to be the boss?
  • You managed a shipping department for 40 years, do you really want to go back to working in the warehouse?

Contact Us

The EEOC offers little guidance on the issue of over-qualification and age discrimination. The EEOC and the courts are of the position that over-qualification alone is not evidence of age discrimination. With the aging American workforce and the tendency for employees to retire much later in life, it is becoming more evident that age discrimination is an issue that requires additional attention. If you suspect you are a victim of age discrimination, we may be able to help.

New York age discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown have been practicing on the discrimination forefront for decades and can assist you if you think you have a claim against a prospective or current employer. Our attorneys work with passion and dedication to see that New York’s older workers receive fair and lawful treatment. We take a hands-on approach to all of our cases, and that means you receive personal and professional representation.

If you have experienced age discrimination, contact New York age discrimination attorneys at Leeds Brown and let us help you secure a positive outcome. We can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658.