- Even as employers wrestle with low unemployment, older workers are still reporting difficulty getting hired, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). What's more, only 3% report having made a formal complaint to someone in the workplace or to a government agency, the commission noted in a new report, The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination based on age against those 40 and older. It has been on the books for 50 years, but regardless of market conditions, age discrimination has been constant in the workplace, Victoria A. Lipnic, EEOC acting chair, said in a statement introducing the report.
- The report says the most common ADEA claims are discriminatory firings, terms and conditions of employment, and harassment. "Terms and conditions" refers to, for example, mandatory retirement policies. Many lawsuits also are based on intersectional claims, in which plaintiffs allege discrimination based on two factors, such as age and gender.
Age discrimination is employment's "open secret," Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior advisor at EEOC previously told HR Dive. Age discrimination and age stereotyping are so common in our society that, in the workplace, it's actually more accepted than other forms of discrimination, she said.
Still, such discrimination remains illegal, and both the EEOC and other stakeholders have suggested that employers not only refrain from taking adverse employment actions against older workers, but also include them in diversity and inclusion plans.
Employers also can work to ensure that hiring materials — career websites, job listings and more — use photos and language that showcase diversity and the employer's commitment to a multi-generational workforce. Job ads and hiring manager comments have, in recent months, landed several employers in hot water: they should be devoid of age range requirements or dog-whistle language that tries to disguise age bias, such as "energetic," "go-getter" and "digital native," experts say.
But more than preventing discrimination claims, EEOC says these efforts can boost productivity, as older workers tend to be engaged and loyal. Training or reverse mentorships also can help retain older workers, and phased retirement can help avoid a brain drain when an employee leaves.