Meme Reveals the Workplace Discrimination We Don't Talk About Enough

November 17th 2016

You apply for a job to gain experience and get rejected because you don't have enough experience. It's a catch-22 that can keep a lot of young people out of the workforce or resign them to low-level jobs. It's an issue that some people view as a form of workplace discrimination, and there's a meme going around on the internet that perfectly sums up these sentiments felt among many young job seekers.

This meme nails the frustration often felt by young job applicants.


Though federal law prohibits age-based discrimination, that protection isn't afforded to people under the age of 40, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Ageism, as it's traditionally understood in the workplace, involves denying employment to older applicants, or firing aging employees due to their age. But ageism can affect young people, too, according to a 2012 study by the Department of Work and Pension.

The study found that "[e]xperiences of age discrimination were more common for younger groups, with under-25s at least twice as likely to have experienced it than other age groups," The Guardian reported. Older workers were also "viewed as being more friendly, having higher moral standards and as being more competent than their younger counterparts."

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There's no doubt that age-based discrimination is a serious issue for older workers. In 2014, more than 20,500 workers submitted age discrimination complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — nearly 3,000 more than the department received in 2004. But young people face a unique challenge in this respect: it's difficult to prove that an employer discriminated against a young worker because they can justifiably fire or not hire people on the basis of one's experience level.

"For millennials, inexperience — a valid, legal reason to fire or not hire — and youth are practically synonymous," Forbe's Caroline Beaton wrote.

Missing out on any job because of your age can be discouraging — but it shouldn't keep you from aiming high in your career. Corporations tend to be more strict about experience requirements, but startups — especially in the tech industry — tend to be more open to different age brackets. Or pave your own path and pursue a career as an entrepreneur. Being young can be a burden in some contexts, but it can prove advantageous in others.

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Do you think age-based workplace discrimination against young people should be prohibited?

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