The battle against discrimination in the workplace is ongoing and it has it has been reactionary at best. Businesses often update their policy based on some event happening in the world such as the recent sexual scandals in Hollywood. But, discrimination happens in a myriad of forms on numerous levels, whether due to an individual’s race, sex, body (e.g. heavy-set versus thin), religion, existing mental illnesses, or even someone’s age. Regardless of the cause, discrimination is grossly inappropriate and unprofessional in the workplace. As employers and business owners, discrimination should never occur when considering applicants. It should also never happen in the workplace, which means training in the avoidance of discrimination, and discussing discrimination with your project leaders and team leaders. Rather than be reactive on these matters, it is important to be proactive.
This document specifically pertains “ageism,” or discriminating against an individual because of their age. This happens to both the young and the elderly and is as unacceptable as other forms of discrimination in the workplace.
While it may seem unlikely, age discrimination is as real as race and sex discrimination. According to Studies referenced in a September 2016 Money.com article, out of every three employees between the ages of 45 to 74, two of them have seen, experienced, or been the victims of age discrimination. In addition, the same referenced studies in the Money.com article have also shown that if you are employed in a business sector, or an industry involving a new technology, or that pre-dominantly employs young adults, then the odds of experiencing age discrimination are exponentially higher.
Indeed, even when filling out your application, or when sending in your resume, even if your age isn’t cited, you may be passed over if your employment history is more extensive, or simply longer than the average applicant, due to age. With all this discrimination, one would think that the legal system would effectively implement employment laws that rectify the wrongful discrimination. However, unless the offense is blatantly obvious, then discrimination is exceedingly difficult to prove, and even more difficult to win against in a courtroom setting. The reason for this is because an employer doesn’t have to state, “I didn’t hire *insert name* due to age.” To exaggerate reality, it isn’t exactly unlawful to not hire someone due to their favorite baseball team, their zodiac sign, or their choice in shoes. It’s unfathomably simple to cover up age discrimination with a totally unrelated reason that justifies not hiring an applicant.
Why Does Age Discrimination Happen?
Age discrimination may happen for a plethora of reasons. Ageism happens when an employer thinks that the age of the candidate may hinder his or her ability to perform the scope of their duties. Employers may simply want to have a stable full of young, hungry, ready-for-anything employees, and he or she feels that an older employee isn’t a good fit. It’s also been stated that employers may think that with the age and experience of a potential employee comes the possibility of them being a flight risk, or demanding higher wages, and they will leave when a better opportunity arises due to their being “over-qualified”. As employers, one must be proactive in their approach when hiring new employees, so as not to discriminate due to age, even if unintentional.
Is Age Discrimination Illegal?
Yes, it is. It is also illegal for someone to harass a peer due to their age. On the other hand, it is not illegal for an employer to ask the age of an applicant (which seems slightly oxymoronic) unless out of sheer curiosity. In 2009, according to https://www.aarp.org, the Supreme Court set the law backwards by ruling that an individual must have more proof, compared to other forms of discrimination, before proceeding with an age discrimination trial. When learning of an individual’s age, many employers will simply refuse the applicant candidacy, because if a person isn’t a candidate then it isn’t discrimination. Unfortunately, however, the evidence of age discrimination isn’t enough to actually commit to battling it.
What Can an Employer Do?
What many employers fail to realize is that older workers may be the most productive. In fact, studies have shown that employees between the ages of 45 and 50 are generally the highest rated in performance reviews. Employers should engage in proactivity and in ensuring that no applicant is discriminated against. With all the steps being taken regarding other forms of discrimination, do not be surprised when there is a culling and age discrimination is thrust to the forefront of wrongs to be rectified.
Like other societal challenges, age discrimination won’t end easily. Keep in mind one simple point: many factors make for a good employee. His or her year of birth is not one of them.
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