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Agism is discrimination against individuals in the workplace on the basis of the individual’s age. Age discrimination may not be the first thing we think about when we think of discrimination in the workplace, but it’s something that companies should take seriously as it can result in lengthy lawsuits. In this article, we explain how and what steps companies can take to reduce age discrimination and avoid agism lawsuits in the workplace. Here we discuss:

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How can companies reduce age discrimination and age discrimination lawsuits?

There are several ways for companies to reduce their likelihood to discriminate based on age. Here are a few:

  • Change your hiring approaches: Although it is easy for us to assume nowadays that most people spend their job searches on the internet, that could very well be excluding a large portion of older generations of workers that prefer ‘classic’ approaches to hiring. Putting up a sign in the front of a store that asks interested people to inquire within may seem antiquated, but also has a higher likelihood of pulling in a more diverse crowd.
  • Offer programs that make your older workers feel engaged with the company: Career development and training tend to have some of the highest impacts in older generations of workers. By offering these programs to employees, you are likely to reduce job dissatisfaction and increase overall productivity simultaneously.
  • Consider age-neutral approaches in the workplace: It can be hard to tell, but sometimes the interview questions, training, and various other workplace activities are geared towards younger, technically proficient workers. This can create feelings of tension for older workers that may not feel adequately prepared. Consider replacing these with versions that are more sensitive to age related issues that may exist for your employees.

Why should companies care about reducing age discrimination?

The effects of age discrimination can be widespread on a company as well as the surrounding community. These effects can range from purely financial to social and medical effects. For example, many older workers are familiar with the company’s intellectual property and successes. Were the company to lose that employee to age discrimination, that knowledge would be lost, potentially to a competitor. Older workers also receive more satisfaction from continuing to work, and there have been correlations between older workers with jobs and longer life spans because of that satisfaction.

How do you prevent age discrimination when you review a resume?

This can be an especially challenging task, as we often have unconscious biases that kick in when we view information about another person. This is especially true for interviews, as humans tend to enjoy the company of people that remind them of themselves. In the case of a resume, focus on the qualifications of the person as opposed to the dates on the resume. Although the candidate may have been out of school for a while, he or she may have a wealth of experience in the industry. Older applicants may be out of touch with modern methods of formatting their resumes and may focus less on the aesthetic of their resume as opposed to the content.

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What determines age discrimination?

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), age discrimination is defined as treating an applicant or employee less favorably than another based on their age. This can apply to hiring, promotions, layoffs, benefits, training, and salaries or pay. However, it can be hard to determine the line between when something is considered ‘teasing’ as opposed to discrimination. Jokes poking fun at the age that a reasonable person would not find offensive are not considered discrimination.

What is an example of age discrimination?

Imagine you have two workers in your employ: Johnny, who is 25, and Garret, who is 58. Although both workers are equally efficient at their jobs, you find that you identify more with Johnny because of his age. When both are up for review and a potential raise, you give a larger raise to Johnny despite Garret mirroring Johnny’s performance. This would be a case of age discrimination, as you intentionally withheld a larger raise from Garret based upon his age.

At what age does ageism begin?

According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, any employee who is over the age of 40 is extended extra protections against age discrimination in the workplace.

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How can MBM Law help your company avoid ageism lawsuits?

MBM Law has a team of exceptional employment law attorneys with years of experience helping companies build welcoming workplaces and avoid discriminatory practices. We can smartly and efficiently review your corporate policies and practices to determine whether they conform to the law, and make suggestions that will ensure every employee feels safe at their place of work and avoids troublesome litigation. We’ll also keep you informed as to the law changes or adapts overtime time. With the advice of MBM Law, your company can stay ahead of age discrimination in the workplace and avoid costly lawsuits before they happen.

Alfred C. Maiello
Alfred Maiello

Alfred C. Maiello is the founding member of MBM and has represented area school districts as solicitor for 50 years. He counsels school districts and educational institutions on leading developments in school law and guiding them through their day-to-day and long-term challenges.