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ADEA at 50: Looking back & ahead at age bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

In June 1968, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 took effect. The law protects workers 40 and older from discrimination.

The EEOC, the agency responsible for enforcing the ADEA, recently took a look back to see what progress older workers have made in the half century since the law took effect.

Some advances against age discrimination have clearly been made. With only a handful of safety-related exceptions, most mandatory age cutoffs for certain jobs have been eliminated. Mandatory retirement ages are largely a thing of the past, too.

However, older workers still face many of the same challenges they did 50 years ago. Anecdotally, age discrimination cost many older workers their jobs during the Great Recession. EEOC charges alleging age discrimination jumped almost 50% between 2006 and 2008. Unemployment among older workers spiked, and those who lost their jobs while in their early 50s took the longest to regain employment of any group.

In its publication, “The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S.: 50 Years After the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,” the EEOC identifies several practices that perpetuate age discrimination.

Example: Recruitment advertising that targets younger demographics via social media may miss older candidates simply because they never learn that jobs are open.

The report says older workers and applicants are left out of the loop when employer diversity initiatives fail to address age. Similarly, older applicants may be disadvantaged if everyone who handles job interviewing is young. Reason: Numerous studies have shown that interviewers tend to hire people like themselves, perpetuating whatever systemic bias may exist within an organization.

The EEOC says perpetuation of age discrimination adds up to missed opportunities for employers. In a tight labor market, hiring older, experienced applicants may be one of the most efficient ways to fill urgent staffing needs.

Online resource Read the EEOC’s ADEA report online at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/adea50th/report.cfm.

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