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Learn the Advantages of Hiring Seniors During National Employ Older Workers Week

September 21st, 2020

The last full week of September is National Employ Older Workers Week, which is designated by the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The purpose of this special event is to increase awareness about this important group in the American workforce.

During the week, recognition will also be given to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). This work-based program offers job training for unemployed, low-income seniors.

How is the American Workforce Evolving?

The DOL reports that the average and median ages of the population is changing in the United States, which is directly impacting workforce demographics. They estimate that workers who are 55 years old and older will comprise 25 percent of the civilian labor force by the end of 2020, compared to 13 percent in 2000. Here is some more important data released by the DOL:

  • Older workers tend to put off retirement because they cannot afford to stop working and because they like their jobs.
  • More people over 65 years old are remaining in the workforce, and the DOL claims that this group makes up over seven percent of the labor force.
  • Companies highly rate older workers, based on punctuality, commitment, attendance, and for having sound judgment.

Yet, many companies still discriminate against older workers. It can be obvious or more subtle, but many workers in this age range are subject to age discrimination.

How Can I Tell if My Employer is Discriminating Against Older Workers?

Employment discrimination can be immediately present, such as when older applicants are passed over for jobs they are qualified for and replaced by younger workers. Employed seniors can also be amongst the first workers to lose their positions when layoffs start because they earn higher salaries and have higher health care expenses.

Seniors can also get left out of seminars, company events, and technical training when employers do not respect older workers. Some managers feel that keeping older employees is a waste of money since these workers may be approaching retirement.

Employee harassment also falls under discrimination, and seniors may experience rude comments about their age when they are at work. This can come from colleagues, supervisors, clients, or vendors. If this kind of harassment is constant and offensive enough, it could qualify as a hostile work environment. Company policies and practices can also be discriminatory if they are harmful to senior employees.

Having to Care for Family Members

Older workers can also be discriminated against when they must act as caregivers for family members. Even though younger employees with small children receive accommodations for childcare, older employee caregivers often receive less flexibility in their workplaces and can end up losing their jobs.

Older employees who assume caregiver responsibilities are pulled in two different directions, which can impact work performance. There are support services, like adult care centers, that are available, which can help if no other family members or friends can contribute. Employers can help out by understanding how difficult these situations are and by being more flexible with schedules. Some helpful options, such as paid time off, allow employees to arrange alternate care services or different work schedules.

What is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws that are designed to protect workers from discrimination and harassment. It started over 50 years ago with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law protects job applicants and employees from workplace discrimination.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was established a few years later and protects workers who are 40 years old or older from any kind of age-based employment discrimination. According to this law, any type of company policy that negatively impacts employees over 40 years old is illegal. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act also adds certain protections for senior employees.

There are other federal laws in place to help workers with disabilities, political affiliations, marital status, and other protected categories. Employers are also prohibited from violating veterans’ preference requirements.

Why Should Companies Hire Seniors?

Most employers view older employees as being more loyal and stable, which means that they can remain with their companies for longer periods of time compared to younger employees. More years on the job also means greater knowledge and experience; this group is valuable to businesses.

Additionally, older adults help the United States economy since they continue to pay taxes when they are employed. It also allows them to contribute to their living costs for longer periods of time.

Age discrimination can also cost companies money. The EEOC reported that 20 to 25 percent of cases from the past 15 years were related to workplace age discrimination. Any kind of discrimination and harassment can be negative for a business, both from an operations and growth standpoint as well as financial ramifications.

How Should Employers Address Age Discrimination?

There are many ways that companies can avoid ageism, starting with the recruitment and hiring processes. Open positions should be posted where applicants of all ages will see them, and words that implicate ageism should be omitted. Other suggestions include not asking age-related interview questions and not asking job applicants to put their birthdates on their applications.

Having clearly-defined policies in place will help all employees understand that age discrimination will not be tolerated and will be formally disciplined. An effective policy can be designed with the Human Resources (HR) department or through an outside consulting firm.

After the policy is established, it can be reinforced through anti-discrimination and diversity training. This way, employees and managers will understand why seniors are beneficial in workplaces and the downfalls of discriminating against them. Training can also focus on finding better ways for employees of all ages to work more respectfully and effectively together. Many younger workers may not even realize that they exhibit ageism, and this behavior falls under the category of implicit bias.

Performance-Based Rewards and Accommodations

Companies are also encouraged to reward employees based on their performance rather than other factors. Salary increases, promotions, and other benefits can be gauged by a worker’s value to the company instead of their age. This also applies to demotions, layoffs, and firings. An employee should not be faced with reduced hours, relocation to an undesirable position, or termination because their manager feels that the employee’s pay is too high or that they may be retiring soon. 

Creating more age-friendly workplaces can also benefit employees and businesses. Here are a few ways to address the safety needs of senior workers:

  • Improve indoor and outdoor lighting.
  • Remove fall hazards, like cracked sidewalks and debris in hallways.
  • Add ergonomically improved adaptations.

These actions and other changes will help workers deal with sensory and age-related mobility issues.

Why is it Important for a Harassed Worker to Speak to a Lawyer?

If an elderly employee is encountering age discrimination at work, they should contact a lawyer right away. A lawyer will explain how to file a complaint with the EEOC and will also ensure that it is filed correctly. Also, a lawyer will protect the worker’s rights and help them obtain necessary damages.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Support Elderly Employees During National Employ Older Workers Week

If your employer is discriminating against older employees or any other protected category of workers, reach out to one of our Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. We will fight to protect your rights and get you the compensation that you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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