Retailers asking applicants for ages

Julie Shenkman
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As if this job market hasn't been challenging enough for the over-50 workforce, now comes news that some large employers are asking applicants to disclose their age on their online applications. The Huffington Post reports that several large retailers, including The Home Depot, Kroger and Target, are asking jobseekers to state their date of birth on their forms. While the law does not forbid this, it could be an invitation to an age discrimination lawsuit. At least one of the retailers mentioned in the HuffPost story, Kroger, says it asks for applicants' birth dates "to ensure compliance with laws and regulations governing the employment of minors or establishing age requirements for certain tasks" and that hiring managers do not see the ages of applicants over 21. The others told the HuffPost that they use the information only to conduct background checks once candidates are hired. Still, as several human resources professionals quoted in the story note, the practice leaves employers vulnerable to charges of age discrimination. Older workers, who already have a harder time finding work than younger workers in the current job market, are filing age discrimination complaints at a higher rate these days; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says such complaints accounted for 24.4% of all employment discrimination complaints in fiscal 2009. Older workers seeking jobs in retail are responding by working around the requirement, filling in the birthdate boxes with zeroes. Others have resorted to subterfuge by lying about their birthdates. One job seeker quoted in the HuffPost story, Ruth Lyons, a florist who was laid off in the fall of 2008, said she kept getting passed over for interviews at one retailer in her area until she gave a later, fake birthdate on her application. Then she got called in, and her charm and personality got her the job on the spot. Which suggests that lying might be a good strategy for the older job seeker in a job market lousy with younger, cheaper workers. Ruth Lyons strategically lied her way to a new job; would you? Think about this for a minute and share your thoughts in the comments.

By Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is a veteran freelance writer, editor and public relations professional who lives in Philadelphia. Besides blogging for, he has written for numerous publications and websites, would be happy to do your resume, and is himself actively seeking career opportunities on Nexxt. Check out his LinkedIn profile and read his other posts on


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  • Ronald Duenas
    Ronald Duenas
    I have been interviewed via phone call by an in house H R department twice by a large company (Yellow Book) and passed with flying colors as mentioned by the interviewer (your are exactly the type of person that we are looking for this position). I was invited to a face to face interview meeting with Regional Sales Manager, intervieed for almost an hour. I have not heard from him for three weeks to date. Sales manager did ask for my birth date, he said was off the record. Age discrimation, I believe so. What can I do about it?
  • James Pequette
    James Pequette
    One lie doesn't deserve another.  If you lie about your age, you are stooping to the same level as that employer.  This country, particularly some of the large corporations, are not living by principles that I can endorse, and I will not stoop to the same level.  I have been retired, but am very capable of performing at the age of a 40 year old in all ways.  I just started looking for work a couple months ago, have sent out about 50 applications, and just this week have been invited for two interviews.  I know it is tempting to lie, but legally, you could get in trouble, and morally, I hope we all do the right thing.
  • Angela Miler
    Angela Miler
    Yes, I think it's discriminating. They should be only worried about qualifications.
  • john schuetze
    john schuetze
    I have had several, which I thought were excellent interviews but no offers. I believe it is all an age issue. I think employers believe all older people are sick all the time, can't keep up with younger people and would be a drain on medical benefits. I have a full time job, but I am looking for shorter drive time.
    I really think the person nailed it. I have been turned down by the big box store's three times and the job I applied for I have done for over fourty years but did not get it. The reason was over qualified?
  • cheryl
    Every job application lately has asked for my birthdate. It is not right to lie about your age to get a interview.  If this is discrimation, there should be a stop put to it.
  • contractor girl
    contractor girl
    I'll tell you, I've been out there looking for work. My resume' has no graduation dates which are not required. I'm in better physical shape than many people including those in my age group. I have a good work ethic and I don't lie but, it's getting to the point that I say more power to people like the lady, R.Lyons, who did what she had to do to be employed.
    YES, this is a discriminatory
  • jeanne hough
    jeanne hough
    When I applied for a job at a Walmart close to my home, I was asked for my birthdate and there was a note saying they asked for it on all on-line apps. Of course that is the only way they take apps.  Same with Kroeger. Needless to say I was not asked in by either store for an interview although I am well qualified and able.  
  • Lawrence Drolet
    Lawrence Drolet
    I will not lie even if it means I never work again.  It is the employer who is shorting themselves.  Many older, unemployed persons willing to work are very affordable AND knowlegable.  Why would any hiring company sacrifice expertise?
  • Joseph Richmond
    Joseph Richmond
    I think it's true that just about all employers are asking your age on online aqpplications, and because of this many older people with  outstanding work ethics are being turned down because large corporations want to hire younger people. Discrimation because of age is hard to prove, but it is against the law. I am 60 years old and have been out of work for a year and a half and have applied for at least 500 jobs and have not been hired yet, and my unemployment benefits have run out in Virginia. I know the job market is slow at this point, but come on!
  • Miriam Rivera
    Miriam Rivera
    It is sad that experience does not count anymore for employment.  A degree and a masters is nice to have but experience cannot be taken out of a text book but hard work and experience carries with you always.  I have experienced how younger individuals are given opportunities and they feel entitled without providing any life experience or knowledge.
  • robin reimer
    robin reimer
    I'm 55 and lost my job due to plant closing in July I've put in hundreds of applications and not one call have I received for an interview. I have a great work history. I believe I am being discriminated because of my age.
  • Sandra Franchi
    Sandra Franchi
    My concern about lying about your age is, yes you may get the job, but when the employer finds out you'll riskbeing fired (for being untruthful) or messing up any kind of retirement.
  • pat
    Don't list employment past 10 years or fill in graduation dates. It works for me and leads to more interviews. But I am still unemployed.  Another thought: Who is reportedly getting hired changes from day to day in newspaper articles. One day everyone over 50 is taking all the jobs. The next day it's the 20 year olds. Age is definitely a problem, but it isn't the only problem. There are not enough quality jobs or employers.
  • Mott
    You are so right about the age thing. Don't remember ever having to give my birthday or age  on an application before and the south is very good at asking that question.  All their applications have that question along with assistance questions.   You have a better chance of getting a job if you are on some kind of assistance program, I think the companies get some kind of tax credit for hiring people on assistance which does not help me at all.  There goes another strike
  • Tony Barefield
    Tony Barefield
    I believe this to be true. I have been looking for a job since 2009. I went to an interview in Aug.2011 and the guy asked me if I had any children. Later that month I went to an interview and was asked if I was married. There are other interviews I went on and the interviewer talked profusely about their spouse or children hoping that I would discuss mine. I also have a cousin that told me in his last interview about a month the interviewer said that he was not sure this would be the right job for him because the work is more geared for a younger person. I am just troughed back on the practices and tactics used these days. In most cases I find it difficult to get motivated to work for companies that endorse substandard employee and ethics.
  • B. DeVore
    B. DeVore
    Alan Greenspan spoke yesterday on the prospect of the baby boomers being able to leave the work force.  He said they have both education and technical savy.  He mentioned that the new "granted" workers will create a different dynamic.  The old addage, "you get what you pay for" does fit in this scenario. I'm not sure lying does any good, as employer's look at your work history and graduation dates, it is easy to figure out an approximate age on an applicant.
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