Age Discrimination Essay

This essay has a total of 2321 words and 11 pages.

Age Discrimination

No matter how talented or experienced one employee may be over another, workplace history
has demonstrated more than just a few times that the younger candidate is often the one to
win the promotion. Age discrimination has become more than a minor inconvenience
throughout the twentieth century; indeed, the issue has become such a hot potato within
the workplace that laws have been forced into existence as a means by which to address the
problem.

In order to help protect those who stand to be singled out and let go because of the
unfairness of ageism, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was designed with
the older employee in mind. The issue at hand is that companies are not willing to look
beyond their aging workforce, choosing instead to push them out of the technological loop
rather than attempting to incorporate them as valuable assets. In our culture, the general
perception is that with youth comes energy, imagination, and innovation. With age comes
decreasing interest, lack of innovation and imagination, and a lessening of the quality of
the person (Bennett, 2001, p. 410-411).

Job seekers are reporting age discrimination beginning as early as the mid-thirties. How
can this be addressed? What options are there for those of us considered "old" by hiring
managers and companies? The biggest issue, and one which is hard to address, is the
perception that older workers are not as capable or as qualified as younger counterparts.

Age discrimination continues to damage our society, reducing both the incomes and the
self-confidence of millions of Americans. A Harris survey, conducted in 1989, reported
that one million workers aged 50 to 64 believed that they would be forced to retire before
they were ready. Most of this group, anticipating an unwanted early retirement, said they
would prefer to work for years longer. Another Harris survey, conducted in 1992, found
that 5.4 million older Americans--one in seven of those 55 and older who were not working
at that time--were willing to work but could not find a suitable job (Administration on
Aging).

Age discrimination can be obvious, such as a bank hiring a pretty, inexperienced young
woman as a teller instead of an older woman with a strong background in similar jobs. But
it's the subtler forms of age discrimination that may have the most powerful effect on
cutting short the productive years of Americans--the law partner who is moved to a smaller
office when he passes 60, the 50-year-old professional who knows hard work won't bring any
more promotions, the vacancy filled by a younger staff member before older workers even
know about it, and the new boss who makes life so miserable for the 60-year-old secretary,
he inherits, that she quits.

Age discrimination is sometimes allowed to continue with surprisingly little protest
because of long-held assumptions that it is right and proper for older workers to move
aside to make room for younger workers who need to support families, that older workers
are less competent, and that there's no mileage in training them for new jobs.

In fact, for a variety of reasons, older workers have been leaving the labor force. The
percentage of men 55 to 64 in the work force declined from 87 percent in 1950 to 67
percent in 1996, and for men 65 and older, from 46 percent to 16 percent. The percentage
of women 55 and older in the work force hasn't changed substantially because the dramatic
rise in the number of women working has offset the increase in early retirements (Age
Discrimination).

When age 62 arrives or earlier retirement is offered, what prompts the employee to
leave--a negative work climate that sees older employees as less valuable, the desire to
be free, or a belief that Social Security or a pension, plus some savings will provide a
livable income? The answer is probably a combination of the three, but some employment
experts think ageism plays a larger role than most people are willing to admit.

The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects most workers 40 and older
from discrimination in recruitment, hiring, training, promotion, pay, benefits, firing,
layoffs, retirement and other employment practices. The Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) is responsible for receiving charges of age discrimination under the
ADEA, investigating them, and working to remedy the causes (Employment Law).

Financial need and career interests send many early retirees back to work. According to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), half of men aged 55 to 61 and one-quarter aged 62 to
64, who had pension income in 1993, found new jobs--in most cases, part-time employment.
Many older Americans, however, can't find a job or are too discouraged to try. About
667,000 people 55 and older were unemployed in 1993 and about half had been out of work
for 15 weeks or more (Employment Law).

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." In such a climate, it is the older worker who is at
particular risk of losing a job. Stressful conditions in the workplace are projected to
continue during a time when the number of workers 55 and older will jump from 16 million
in 1996 to 22 million in 2005, and rise even higher with the aging of the baby boomers
(Doyle).

Yet, a 1992 Harris survey of 400 companies found that only one in eight companies surveyed
sees an urgent need to respond to the aging of the work force. Just one in three offers
older workers the chance to transfer to jobs with less responsibility and only one in five
offers phased retirement (Doyle).

Another 1994 survey, also of 400 companies, interviewed "Human Resources Decision Makers"
and summarized the results in an American Association of Retired Persons' (AARP) report,
American Business and Older Workers: A Road Map to the 21st Century. According to the
report, the personnel directors and company executives interviewed, rate older workers
very highly, but believe younger managers "do not really want older employees no matter
how good their skills, so what's the point of sending them an older worker to interview"
(Employment Law)?

The report said many of the "Decision Makers" believe younger managers see older workers
as: "My mom and dad and do not want to boss them; knowing more than boomers do and making
them look bad, less competent; hard to relate to, not part of ‘my generation,' ‘my
culture,' and ‘inflexible, unwilling to change' (Doyle).

From 1991 to 1995, an average of 17,000 workers annually brought age discrimination
complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Commonwealth Fund
report notes, however, that the EEOC has a constant backlog of charges to investigate and,
due to limited resources, can pursue only a few strategically targeted court cases. The
report urges Congress to provide funds and establish statutory authority for the EEOC to
conduct audits and reviews of company practices to test for age discrimination in the
workplace (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

Has Any Of These Things Ever Happened To You?
- You didn't get hired because the employer wanted a younger looking person to do the job.
- You were passed over for training courses and then got a negative job evaluation
because you weren't "flexible" in taking on new assignments.

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