In an ideal world, your age wouldn't play a role in determining how you're treated at work. In reality, it often does.

Age discrimination is a real problem in the workplace, and despite the fact that it's illegal, employers still manage to get away with it. In fact, 11% of Americans over 45 feel that their age has caused either a past or current employer to treat them unfairly, according to a new survey by GOBankingRates. Not only that, but also among those surveyed, ageism was more common than discrimination resulting from a disability.

The problem with age discrimination is that it can take different forms, and it can start at any time (though most people agree that ageism begins when workers reach their 50s). For example, 13% of Americans feel that their age has prevented them from getting hired -- a sentiment most common among adults 65 and over. Age discrimination can also play out in an existing work arrangement, whether in the form of getting demoted or being fired unjustly. And while it can certainly impact males and females alike, interestingly, in the aforementioned survey, men were more likely than women to say that they'd been treated unfairly because of their age.

A gray-haired man sits in front of a laptop at a desk, with a pensive expression.


Coping with age discrimination

If you've been experiencing age discrimination at your place of work, it's imperative that you take steps to fight back. One thing you can do is work on continuously boosting your skills and staying current on industry changes and trends. Doing so will send the message that you're just as capable as your younger counterparts, all the while giving your employer less justification in letting you go or pushing you down the corporate ladder while your younger colleagues get to climb up.

At the same time, if you think you're being treated unfairly because of your age, be sure to keep a record of all incidents pointing to that fact. Specifically, record the date, time, and place each incident occurs, and include as much detail as possible. If you're able to identify colleagues who witness these events, even better. Once a true pattern is established, talk to your manager (assuming he or she isn't the problem) or your company's human resources department and see if steps are taken to remedy the situation. If they aren't, or if you're demoted or fired and you believe it's solely because of your age, you have the option to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

That said, it also helps to avoid becoming a victim in the first place. Improving your skills and staying current in your field will help in this regard, as will keeping your age under wraps. If you're applying for a job, don't include the year you graduated college on your resume, and only list your most relevant, recent experience. If you're 55, for example, with 33 years of work experience under your belt, nobody needs to know what job you held down during the late 1980s or 1990s, and omitting that information will make it easier to keep your age a mystery.

Of course, the fact that you have to even take that step is upsetting in its own right. But if you want to avoid age discrimination, it may be the best way to go.