Age Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

The majority of the news today focuses on two topics concerning discrimination at work: gender and race. And while these two issues need to be addressed, there is a third issue that is equally important, but that tends to get overlooked.

Age discrimination.

Employers, when choosing to hire for a position, look at many different factors that could affect a potential employees’ performance. While some of these factors are acceptable, others fall under the category of discrimination.

According to a 2017 study, workers over the age of 45 are unemployed longer than any other age group; a concerning statistic for anyone battling age discrimination.

What Is Age Discrimination?

According to the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967), age discrimination is “treating any employee less fairly because of their age.” Also known as “age bias,” some employers tend to look at older employees with concern, wondering if how they will be able to perform over the years if they can keep up, if they will be too expensive to invest in – all of these can fall under the net of discrimination.

According to the ADEA, which only protects employees over the age of forty, job discrimination can include any unfair treatment on the job, including hiring, firing, layoffs, raises, promotions, assignments, etc.

The ADEA also protects employees who are harassed in the workplace because of their age.

Examples of age discrimination may include the following:

  • Showing a hiring preference for younger workers.
  • Retaining younger workers during layoffs or organizational restructuring.
  • Offering better terms/conditions of employment for younger workers.
  • Providing choice job assignments only to younger workers.
  • Not including older workers in new training initiatives.

Why Older Employees Are A Concern To Companies:

Unlike other types of discrimination that occurs in the workplace, age discrimination can often slip under the radar because of the seemingly legitimate concerns that mask it. For many companies and potential employers, some of the concerns about hiring an older employee are:More experience comes with higher salaries and expectations.

  • More experience comes with higher salaries and expectations.
  • A potential increase in benefit packages such as health insurance and retirement plans.

And while some may argue that these points are valid, it is discrimination.

There are also many myths about older workers that hiring managers buy into – sometimes without even realizing it.

  • Older workers don’t stay on the job long. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics, workers between 45 and 54 remain on the job twice as long as those 25 to 34.
  • Older workers are less innovative than younger workers. In fact, baby boomers are the fastest-growing demographic on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

What ADEA Is Doing To Protect The Rights Of Older Employees:

For employees over the age of forty, ADEA works to reduce the chance of age discrimination happening in the workplace. Enforced by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the laws created by ADEA make it illegal for businesses to advertise that “a certain age is preferred” and also prevents employees to reserve training to younger workers.

The ADEA only applies to companies or employers that have more than twenty employees, employment agencies, and government positions at any level – federal, state and local.

Smart employers work diligently to ensure that they are following the ADEA laws, as lawsuits on age discrimination are expensive, and having to get involved with the EEOC is costly for their reputation.

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