Combating Ageism at Work
Updated: Jul 19
By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.
When you think of discrimination in the workplace, many times race, gender, and sexual orientation are top of mind. However, older Americans can face discrimination at work, too.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting older workers by making it easier to file age discrimination lawsuits against employers.
Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act
The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act was introduced earlier this year by two state representatives with a goal of restoring protections for workers 40 and older. Some of these rights were eroded after a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, Gross vs. FBL Financial Services, Inc. This decision unfortunately made it more difficult for older workers to prove they had experienced discrimination at work based on age.
Originally signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibited age discrimination in the workplace and promoted the employment of older workers, breaking down barriers and building a foundation of equality and fairness for all employees. In addition to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADEA helped ensure all employees were protected while on the job.
The ADEA also prohibits workplace harassment by coworkers, supervisors, or clients because of age, and helps prevent discrimination during the hiring process and as well as for promotions, raises, and layoffs.
Benefits of a seasoned workforce
Age discrimination is often caused by assumptions that age negatively impacts a person’s ability to perform a job. Despite decades of research stating age does not predict performance ability, employers often revert to the ageist stereotypes the ADEA was originally passed to prohibit. Employers often adhere to the misnomer that youth automatically equates to greater creativity and more flexible thinking.
It’s important to note that ageism can harm both workers and companies. Companies that are not open to hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce that takes into account a person’s experience, wisdom and tribal knowledge, are missing out on the expertise older workers bring to the table. In fact, research shows more seasoned workers on average are more conscientious, are absent less and tend to have better social skills.
To build a better, stronger and more innovative organization, companies should strive for diversity of thought and experience.
Have you been discriminated against?
According to a recent AARP study, roughly 80% of workers aged 40 to 65 believe they have experienced age discrimination at some point while at work.
Here are five signs you may be experiencing age discrimination:
You hear age-related comments or insults from your employers or managers. These can be outright statements, inappropriate jokes or intentional or unintentional microaggressions.
You notice your company is hiring only younger employees.
You get turned down for a promotion that ends up going to a younger worker who is less qualified.
You have been encouraged - or forced - to retire. Early retirement packages are offered to older employees as an incentive to push them out.
You have faced unfair punishment or poor performance reviews even though you have a history of strong reviews and no disciplinary action. This could be a sign your employer is looking for a legal way to fire you.
The next step for the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act will be to go in front of the Senate for a vote later this year.
If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against at your place of employment, or would like to speak with an Arizona employment attorney regarding your experiences, contact the Law Office of Joshua Black, PLC, at (623) 738-2225.