It’s Business, And It’s Personal

Older workers seeking non-traditional jobs due to discrimination

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2023 | Employment Law |

Gig work and side hustles are popular amongst young adults trying to make a bit of extra money while in college or working a second job to save for a house or start their own business.

Older workers are also increasingly interested in work-from-home opportunities, side hustles, freelancing and overall seeking a better work-life balance and financial security in today’s gig economy.

But age discrimination is a true concern for older workers. It drives them away from traditional nine-to-five jobs, which for some makes breaking into the gig economy or exploring non-traditional employment options more appealing.

What is age discrimination?

An AARP survey reports that more older workers are exploring the gig economy and other non-traditional forms of employment, in part due to age discrimination in the workplace.

The survey found that 64% of respondents believed older workers in general experience age discrimination in the workplace, and it is not getting better. Two in five respondents even reported that they experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

Age discrimination in the workplace takes place when a worker is subject to an adverse employment action or otherwise treated unfavorably due solely to their advanced age.

Some examples of adverse employment actions include:

  • Firing a worker
  • Paying a worker less than similarly situated workers
  • Failing to promote a worker or giving them unfavorable job assignments
  • Laying off a worker
  • Any other term or condition of the job

Given this, it is understandable why some older workers decide to leave their jobs in favor of non-traditional employment, such as gig work.


However, there are federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination against those age 40 or older.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects workers ages 40 and above from discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on their age. It does not apply to workers under age 40, even if those younger workers are being discriminated against based on their age.

If older worker is discriminated against at work or harassed based solely on their age, they can file a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An investigation will be performed. The EEOC may be able to resolve the situation, but you still have the right to file a lawsuit if you choose.

Facing discrimination can be overwhelming, stressful and humiliating. At least one survey reports that older workers recognize age discrimination in the workplace is a problem and see seeking gig work or other non-traditional forms of employment as an alternative. And, if they are discriminated against at work based on age, they have options for compensation.