It may seem like old news, but age discrimination is making headlines again. An ageism checkup now could prevent troubles down the road.
Get ready. The U.S. House of Representatives is planning to vote on a bill that would reduce barriers for workers to prove age-based job discrimination. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230) would amend the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) to allow complaining individuals to use any type of evidence in presenting their claims. It also would clarify that complainants aren’t required to prove that a protected activity was the only cause of unlawful actions by an employer.
Congress first passed ADEA in 1967, designating age as a “protected characteristic” in the workplace. As a result, employers were prohibited from discriminating against workers based on their age in hiring, firing, work assignments, and/or promotions.
Now is a good time to review your organizational practices for signs of possible age discrimination. These include:
- Training/learning opportunities, including tuition reimbursement, are offered to younger workers and not older ones.
- Older workers are passed over or eliminated from challenging assignments or work-related travel/trips.
- Older workers are left out of client meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other activities.
- There is a spoken or unspoken indication that older workers aren’t entitled to time off for family commitments because they don’t have minor children at home.
- Employees make disparaging comments about age, even in jest.
- Older workers are passed over for promotions, raises, and bonuses.
If you see any of these signs, now is the time to act. Take a few steps:
- Talk to older workers about their areas of interest and include them in learning/training opportunities.
- Fight the stereotypes. For instance, don’t assume that older workers aren’t interested in learning technology or other new ways of doing things. Don’t think that they don’t want to be involved in activities such as softball teams, yoga classes, or family movie nights.
- Avoid age-related language in job descriptions and interview questions designed to determine an applicant’s age.
- Understand rules of retirement. Don’t assume that because someone is older that person is ready to retire or even slow down.
Commit to maintaining a diverse workplace where everyone feels that they have a place, a role, and an opportunity to learn and grow. Focus on hiring and engaging employees to fit a diverse, inclusive workplace culture.