- Strong or broad laws designed to shield older workers from discrimination do not prevent employers from hiring older workers, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research by David Neumark, Ian Burn, Patrick Button and Nanneh Chehras. The finding challenges arguments that anti-discrimination provisions can increase termination costs, which could have the unintended consequence of discouraging employers from hiring older workers.
- The study — based on a field experiment conducted in all 50 states — found some evidence that stronger anti-discrimination laws protecting older workers (in that they provide for larger damages, the study specified) correlate with higher callback rates for older job applicants, which demonstrates reduced age discrimination.
- The experiment also found some evidence that there is reduced discrimination against older women in states in which disability discrimination laws allow larger damages.
Experts have described age discrimination as employment's "open secret": It's common and often deemed more acceptable than other types of discrimination. According to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report released this summer, older workers still face difficulty getting hired, despite the thriving employee job market.
Employers must ensure that behavior complies with state and local laws, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA prohibits discrimination on the basis of age for workers and applicants 40 and older. The law is simple in definition, but leaders may need to scrutinize their behavior; stereotypes considered acceptable outside the workplace may lead to discrimination in the office.
Employers may want to asses their colloquial language and job postings as a first step toward preventing age discrimination. Attorneys recommend managers and leaders cut age-discriminatory adages and phrases out of their vocabulary. Sayings like "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" can be used as evidence of age discrimination, for example.
Erasing discriminatory language from job postings is essential, too, as is making sure postings feature generally inclusive language. Hiring managers will need to consider how certain requirements such as experience relate to a position. The term "digital native," for example, may communicate to an older applicant that she is unwanted, experts say, even if her knowledge meets or surpasses what is required for the job.