- Many workers younger than 50 view America's aging workforce in a negative light, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed 1,423 adults earlier this year. Thirty-nine percent of respondents ages 18 to 49, and 29% of all surveyed adults, said the trend of people staying in the workforce longer is "mostly a bad thing" for American workers. Only 19% of those 50 and older said the same, according to AP.
- Relying on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, AP said that nearly 20% of Americans 65 and older are employed or actively looking for work, up from less than 12% about 20 years ago. About 60% of Americans age 60 and older said people continuing to work past the previous retirement age has been a good thing for the economy, compared with 30% of Americans under 30, AP reported.
- Men (32%) are more likely than women (27%) to cite the aging workforce as a problem. Additionally, higher-income workers are more likely to see an older workforce as a problem than lower-income workers; about a third of those making more than $100,000 a year agreed, compared to 24% of those earning less than $30,000, AP said.
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age bias against people 40 and older. Nonetheless, age discrimination remains an open secret in the workplace, according to many experts.
A bipartisan bill that would make it easier to sue for age discrimination is under consideration on Capitol Hill. Congressional lawmakers have introduced a bill, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, that would reverse a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision that scrapped a longstanding mixed-motive standard for proving age discrimination cases under federal law and replaced it with a much tougher "but for" test. Now, a plaintiff must show that age discrimination was the sole motivating factor for an adverse employment decision. Many states and localities have their own laws prohibiting age bias, too.
However, age is not a pass for not performing the job, court outcomes have shown. A clear failure to properly execute key functions will generally serve as a reasonable basis for discipline by employers, as long as that discipline is uniformly applied.
There's a business case for hiring older workers. Research shows that diverse teams are more innovative. Aaron Goldstein, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, has noted that diversity helps teams avoid generational groupthink. Employers who want the benefits of a truly diverse workforce — one that welcomes women, people of color, LGBTQ workers, older workers and others — can start with an examination of their recruitment efforts. While many older workers are comfortable with technology, recruiting that occurs solely through social media or college job fairs will most likely attract only younger applicants and could be viewed as discriminatory. Reviewing language in ads and removing phrases like "must be a digital native" or "energetic" can eliminate inadvertent ageism.