Age Discrimination Essay
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Sample Essay on Age Discrimination
Are corporations prepared for a continuing age diverse workforce? People are living longer and therefore are staying in the workforce for a longer period of time. Every corporation is aware of employment discrimination lawsuits increasing on a yearly basis. However, one type of lawsuit that employers often overlook is the case of age discrimination.The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), implemented in 1967, protects most workers 40 and older from discrimination in recruitment, hiring, firing, salary, retirement and other practices. Investigating charges and trying to work out solutions is done through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Among all the various discrimination cases, age discrimination can be the most potentially damaging to a corporation.
Age discrimination can be obvious such as hiring a younger, inexperienced, more attractive person for a position than an older person with a strong background in a similar position. Or it can be subtle. Transferring an older person when he reaches 60 to a less demanding, unrewarding job, filling in the vacancy with a younger employee, or inheriting a new boss that creates a miserable environment for the administrative assistant so she will quit.
In the United States there has been little protest because of the long-held attitudes and assumptions that it is only “normal” for older professionals to make room for the younger, upcoming workers. Unfortunately, in the workforce there have been many perceptions attached to aging that create a negative environment. Adaptability, judgment, health, attitude and productivity are among the few. And, older workers become less competent and are not worth training for new jobs or positions because they won’t be with the company that long.
An employee suing in California for discrimination under the civil rights category (Title VII) can recover past and future lost wages and benefits, attorney fees, and punitive damages. As stated previously, these damages can be particularly high. Since older workers are more likely to be with the company for a longer period of time, their salary is probably higher than most of the younger workers. This increases the damages for past and future lost wages and benefits. Damages are also increased because it is harder for an older worker to find new employment. During an age discrimination case, in order to mitigate damages, the employee must try to replace the job that was lost. Being on a higher level and a higher paid employee, it is not easy to find a similar job. Even if the older worker was with a lower paying, lower level job, this still would be difficult because he would have to probably start at the bottom of a new job where salary is not comparable. Recently a bill was introduced to accept positions that earn 70% or more of past salaries.
Older workers also suffer from the discrimination that younger workers prefer to work around people like themselves. Younger workers felt older workers were like their mom and dad and didn’t want to supervise them, felt they were less competent, they might know more than they do and make them look bad, and were hard to relate to. The second largest per-person settlement in an age discrimination case was won in 1996 where between $125, 000 and $150,000 was received. Executives in their 20’s fired 66 sales managers, 59 of whom were 40 or older. Forty-three men sued and won. No matter the reason, whether the employer settles the case or loses, this is still a high cost to the employer.
“In the last decade, downsizing, increased use of part-time and contract employees, greater reliance on automation, and less job security have created what some researchers call a “corporate culture of expendability” (Administration on Aging). In this environment, older workers are at a risk to losing a job. The number of workers, 55 or older in the workforce, is projected to jump to 22 million by 2005, and even higher with the aging baby boomers. In 1992, a survey of 400 companies discovered that only one in eight companies surveyed felt a need to address the problem of an aging workforce. According to the article Administration on Aging, one out of three offered older workers the chance to transfer to a job of lesser responsibility, and only one in five offered phased retirement.
In summary, the EEOC has a tremendous amount of backlog of charges to investigate and are able to pursue only a few strategically due to limited resources. Within the workplace, corporations need to address the age bias that often circulates through the environment. They need to bring their policies up to date and to encourage older workers to pursue job-related education, training and promotional opportunities. Practices such as job sharing, working from home, shorter hours, and training for career-transitions will not only help older workers, but all workers become more production as the workforce continues its transformation.