Age Discrimination in the Workplace | Aiman-Smith & Marcy
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Age Discrimination in Hiring and Promotion in the Workplace

Many companies tend to want to hire younger workers whom they can train and groom in their own way. That leaves out many experienced people who may have lost their jobs during the economic slowdown. Many companies prefer to ignore seniority in the sequence of promotion to favor younger employees as well. Similar discrimination blocks the careers of many younger workers. This arbitrary systemic discrimination on the basis of age, in most cases, violates federal and state anti-discrimination law and can be grounds for civil legal action.

In a recent social experiment, economist David Neumark and his colleagues at the University of California created more than 40,000 realistic but fictitious resumes that were all alike, except that the age and gender were changed. They submitted the resumes online to apply for more than 13,000 mostly low skilled jobs. What they found was that the percentage response to the resumes went significantly down as the age went up. The effect was more profound for women than men.

This study demonstrates a dangerous schism between social reality and emerging social policy. The population of the United States is getting older. The social security system that supports former employees is expected to come under strain and policy has been directed at keeping older employees on the job longer to reduce the overall demand for social security payouts. The findings suggest that anyone over the age of 63 will have a 6 percent smaller chance of getting a response to their resume (over a wide spectrum of jobs) than someone between 29 and 31. Demonstrable resume-response age discrimination also shows up under the retirement age category. Applicants between 49 and 51 years of age are nearly 2 percent less likely to have a response to their resumes than those between 29 and 31. The study demonstrates significant age discrimination, even at the preliminary hiring stage, bound to get worse in the face-to-face interview stage.

Age is one of the seven parameters (race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability) named in civil rights legislation at both state and federal levels along which discrimination is prohibited. Fair employment legislation is a long-standing standard in the United States, originally signed as Executive Order 8802 by Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941. The order, also called the Fair Employment Act prohibited certain discrimination in war-related industries and established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to ensure the act was carried out. Anti-discrimination in employment law has undergone regular development for more than three-quarters of a century. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 specifically prohibits discrimination against individuals who are over 40 years of age. All of the anti-discrimination laws are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

How does age discrimination look?

  • A liberal arts college in New York State screened, interviewed and eventually selected a 64 year-old woman as the first choice for an Assistant Professorship in dance over two younger finalists. As soon as the selection process concluded that the 64 year-old was the first choice, the college expanded its search and eventually found a less-qualified 37 year-old applicant as a fourth finalist to over-ride the original selection.
  • An industrial plant in Michigan was judged by the commission to have manipulated its criteria for lay-offs based on age. Older engineers were laid off first.
  • A utility company in New Mexico failed to hire two senior electrical engineers ages 61 and 72 on the sole basis of age. Two significantly less qualified engineers in their 20s were hired.

Fighting Age Discrimination:

A person who thinks he or she has been discriminated against because of age, is one among many. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) reports that the incidence of age discrimination has increased over the years. In 2006, the EEOC processed 16,548 claims of age discrimination. In 2009, the number was 22,778. However, the senior attorney for the AARP claims this is just the tip of the iceberg. Recent federal court rulings have made the criteria for proof of age discrimination more stringent. This discouraged many would-be plaintiffs away from pursuing their cases.

If you feel have been discriminated against and want to file an age discrimination complaint you will be engaged in a civil suit for damages. Age discrimination is a civil, not a criminal matter. You will have to sue the party that discriminated against you, and you will need to meet a high standard of proof to prove your case. You should begin collecting evidence immediately, including a journal in which you can collect statements and other evidence. You will need an experienced lawyer to help.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a high-performance, boutique law firm with a special interest in eradicating unethical business practices of some large corporations. Our clients are employees, consumers, and businesses who have been the victims. Please contact us to learn more.