- A school did not engage in age discrimination when it reassigned a 59-year-old teacher's classes and tasked her with making photocopies, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held (Lomonoco v. Saint Anne Institute, No. 18-1912 (2nd Cir., May 15, 2019)).
- Teri Lomonoco, a special education teacher with 30 years of experience, alleged she was replaced by two younger co-workers, aged 25 and 29. The court, however, said that her teaching responsibilities were reassigned to several teachers, most of whom were older than she was.
- Separately, Lomonoco also alleged that she was relieved of her teaching duties after complaining about the school's alleged failure to comply with state educational and housing standards for students with disabilities, in violation of state whistleblower law. That claim was evaluated separately, with the 2nd Circuit only concluding that the reassignment failed to support an inference of age discrimination.
Age discrimination remains so pervasive in the workplace that last year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identified age bias as one of its strategic enforcement targets. Federal law banned age discrimination in the workplace in 1967 with the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which applies to employers with at least 20 employees and protects employees and job applicants 40 years of age and older from workplace discrimination.
Beyond avoiding discrimination claims, there's also a business case for hiring older workers, experts say. Research shows that age diverse teams are more productive, Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, a senior advisor at EEOC previously told HR Dive. Aaron Goldstein, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, likewise noted that diversity helps teams avoid generational groupthink.
Employers who want to include older workers in their diversity and inclusion plans can start with an examination of their recruitment efforts. For examples, terms in jobs ads such as "digital native" could be avoided as they may signal to older workers that they shouldn’t apply. And experts recommend that, instead of saying the job requires three to five years of experience, employers use a phrase like "at least three years of experience required."
Employers also may want to review the places where they are advertising. While many seniors are comfortable with technology, recruiting that occurs solely through social media may disproportionately attract younger applicants. Similarly, unintentional discrimination against older workers might be seen if employer recruiting efforts focus only on social media sites or college job fairs.