If, in 1967 when Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, you were one of the white male baby boomers who (a) could not understand the need for the legislation, or (b) empathize with the women, African Americans and others who were victims of sexism, racism or other ism, now is your time to feel discrimination’s pain.
Age discrimination, the treatment of an applicant or employee less favorably because of age, is very real. Companies such as Ernst & Young, Monsanto, Chevron and Lockheed Martin have paid millions to employees hoping that age discrimination allegations go away. Unfortunately, 63% of older individuals believe they have experienced age discrimination and 30% believe they have been mistreated. Beliefs are subjective, but few could argue with the fact that the average duration of unemployment is 50.2 weeks for workers over the age of 55 and 36.9 weeks for those under age 55. See, “Older Workers Say Age Bias Is Common“, http://nyti.ms/16ZsKOi, “Age Discrimination Takes Its Toll”, http://nyti.ms/wQoLGp, and “On the Edge of Age Discrimination, http://nyti.ms/11GQNLq.
Loss of employment, harassment and unfair treatment may be the least of the objectionable results of age discrimination. A study reported in Research on Aging showed that age discrimination could be hazardous to a senior’s health. The discrimination apparently produces high levels of depression, much of which goes untreated. See, “Age Discrimination Takes Its Toll”, http://nyti.ms/wQoLGp.
You might think that because white males are now experiencing age discrimination in greater numbers than ever before, Congress or the courts would have made it easier for seniors to prove age discrimination. You would be wrong. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, victims were required to prove that discrimination was one of the factors leading to the employee’s demotion or dismissal. In 2009, the Supreme Court ignored that legal precedent and made it harder for older workers to win their cases. The Court’s ruling shifted the burden of proof so that victims must prove age was the deciding factor causing the discriminatory treatment, a near impossible standard to meet. It should come as no surprise that since the Supreme Court’s decision lower courts have denied thousands of age discrimination claims. See, “Combating Age Discrimination,” http://nytimes.com/2012/03/30/opinion/combating-age-discrimination.html?_r=0 and “Age Discrimination Takes Its Toll”, http://nyti.ms/wQoLGp.
The AARP publishes a list of senior-friendly employers. In 2011, Scripps Health, Cornell University, National Institutes of Health, First Horizon National Corporation and West Virginia University headed that list. Http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-09-2011/aarp-best-employers-winners-2011.html. These employers deserve our accolades for doing what is fair and, more importantly, for doing what is right.