Ageism is rife in the workplace but it is the young not the old who suffer most, research by a law firm suggests.
Eversheds law firm says the idea bosses are side-lining the 'Victor Meldrew' generation for 'new blood' is a myth.
It says older workers do face prejudice, but it is significantly worse for younger workers.
In a survey of 2,184 people, almost 60% of 16 to 24 year olds polled said they felt unfairly treated because of their age or lack of experience. 'Unfair' treatment
Eversheds said its research suggested that unless the government gets to grips with the controversial issue of a mandatory retirement age, then the situation will deteriorate.
Draft legislation on age discrimination has been delayed while parliament debates the issue of retirement age, but according to the law firm's research, 75% of workers do not want a compulsory retirement age.
The research, which is based on a survey of 2,184 employees in the UK, including personnel managers, suggests that compulsory retirement could arguably make it more difficult for younger workers to climb the career ladder.
A drop in the number of those working in later life could mean higher benefit payments and lower tax revenues.
Audrey Williams, a specialist in discrimination legislation at Eversheds, said: "Perhaps it is not surprising that young people are feeling most victimised, as managers tend to understand age discrimination in terms of older workers.
"Our research showed that nearly half of senior mangers think that age discrimination only affects old people.
"Unfortunately, age is the poor relation to other areas of discrimination, such as gender and race."
The government plans to outlaw "ageism" in the workplace by the end of 2006, but awareness of the forthcoming rules is worryingly low in the workplace, the report says.
Just under half of UK workers are aware of the legislation (48%) and even personnel managers are not up to speed, with 40% unable to state when the new laws will take effect, it added.
Commenting on the research, Sam Mercer, director of the Employers Forum on Age, said: "Every workplace is ageist to some degree and it is going to take a concerted effort to tackle this ageist culture.
"Even employers who think they have got the right policies in place should look at what is happening on the ground and review their practices." BBC News