Ageism or discrimination against older people is similar to Jeunism, which is discrimination against older people in favor of younger ones, particularly in the political arena or workplace. Often age discrimination is hard to prove, though. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continues to see the number of age discrimination charges increase, though 2008 was one of the highest due to the U.S. Financial Crisis. The number of claims remain high. The Federal government defines older workers at being greater than 40 years-old. However; in spite of age discrimination laws, this type of discrimination is very hard to prove.
You think this happens to other people, but not to you, that you are not old enough. Think again! A recent report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) states that for workers between the ages of 45 – 74 years-old, two-thirds of workers say they have experienced or observed age discrimination in their workplace and that such behavior is common. This has resulted in 4 out of 5 Americans over 50 years-old saying they will have to work longer delaying their plan to retire. The report further states that most Americans age 50 years or older want Congress to pass stronger laws to prevent such discrimination.
Other studies show that only 3% of workers who have experienced age discrimination filed a formal report or complaint with a federal or state agency. But this number is difficult to quantify because of under-reporting. Even so, EEOC reports show that age discrimination claims tripled between 1992 and 2017, from 6% to 21%. Often age discrimination is tied to other types of discrimination or harassment. Older workers are also often at the top of the company salary budgets or seen as being a higher cost liability to company healthcare plans or retirement funds, especially if they are vested. To decrease visibility and potential discrimination suits, the elimination of employees with larger salaries are often done on a smaller scale, but can also be on a larger scale, leaving just enough older employees or occurring over a number of annual budget cycles. It is more recently being seen as a trend under “restructuring” of a company.
There are advocates for keeping older workers with costs of higher salaries and benefit costs being offset by organizational knowledge, loyalty, and years of expertise versus the cost of training new workers. However; this may not be valued by those who are mandated to meet their frequently changing bottom-lines this year or by executive leadership who plan to only stay with a company for a few years as they advance their careers.
There is much that has been written on what to do if you are being eliminated, threatened with being fired, forced to retire, or many other names that cover leaving a position earlier than you had planned. There is a plethora of articles on a problem in our society that does not look to be getting better anytime soon without stronger legislation. Below are some related articles along with behaviors associated with age discrimination.
Baker, Shelley. (2017). How Managers Make Unwanted Employees Go Away. ToughNickel. Baker, Shelley @ flourishanyway. Dec 16, 2017.
Jacobs, Deborah L. (2013). 11 Sneaky Ways Companies Get Rid of Older Workers, Forbes. Nov 2, 2013.
James, Susan Donaldson. (2009). Unemployment: Companies Cut Pricey Older Workers. ABC News, Mar 10, 2009.
Palmer, Kimberly. (2017). 10 Things You Should Know About Age Discrimination. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Work & Jobs: Work Life Balance.
Riklan, Michelle (2015). Suspicious Tactics Companies Use to Get Rid of Older Employees. Riklan Resources, Dec 22, 2015.
Swartz, Swidler (2017). Creative Ways Companies Try to Avoid Age Discrimination Claims. Swartz Swidler Law Firms. Jan 13, 2017. swartz-legal.com
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