By Rick Garcia
After receiving my first AARP membership in the mail, I knew I would soon belong to a membership that can not be avoided - Being a Senior Citizen.
For those enjoying retirement, you have my congratulations and admiration. For those still in the workforce, you have my appreciation. For those unemployed or seeking a necessary second career path, you have my support.
Age discrimination in the workplace is another example of workplace discrimination that plagues society. When people are treated differently in the workplace because of age, it can also be bad for business. For example, a company refuses to hire someone because they "appear" to be over 50. It hires an applicant who "appears" to be 20 something. Six months later the 20 something quits for a "better job". The older worker is hired by another company and exhibits superior ability and stability.
The former company now has to incur the time and expense of recruiting, interviewing, background checking, hiring and training a replacement. I have experienced and witnessed all types of discrimination on the job, including watching "vintage" (older) employees not receive equitable treatment.
What is age discrimination? The (ADEA) Age Discrimination In Employment Act of 1967 states, "it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training." When individuals are 40 years old or older and the targets of harmful employment decisions, it could be illegal age discrimination.
The ADEA is a federal law that protects career seekers and employees. The following are some examples of what age discrimination in the workplace might look like.
• The employer lays off mostly older employees, but keeps younger workers who have less experience and seniority.
• The older worker starts receiving bad job evaluations for not being "adaptable" to new work tasks.
• You are fired so the company can keep a younger employee for less compensation.
• The company hires a person of "newer vintage" (younger) than you because it wants someone youthful for the job.
• The older worker is denied a promotion and the company hires a younger person, stating it needs a "fresh new look" or "move in a younger direction".
• The employer refuses to hire you because it wants someone younger.
According to Debbie Chalfie, AARP expert on age discrimination, older workers are concerned about keeping their jobs, and hiring bias has been a top issue during the economic slump. “Everyone has taken it on the chin during this recession, but older workers are the ones who don’t have the time to recover if they’ve lost their jobs, or used up their savings.”
Though national unemployment rates have declined somewhat since 2009, it still remains high, particularly for workers age 50 and over. In fact, the average length of unemployment between jobs for older workers is well over one year – an all-time high. “Age discrimination is continuing to be a barrier,” said Chalfie. “It is critical that those who need or want to work longer are able to do so.”
It’s very difficult to show that a mature adult was not hired because of his or her age and the majority of this group believe “age would be an obstacle to finding work.” The best protection against age discrimination is information. It is important tor revise your resume to reflect your accomplishments – not a chronological list of education and employment. Additionally older candidates must stay abreast of developments in their field or augmenting their skills with trainings, seminars following industry leaders online on social media networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. These networks are invaluable on your due diligence. I find that maturity also has the advantage of using good ol' fashion personal communication to prospective employers or managers.
Afterall, older workers have the most precious commodity - life skills such as raising families, budgeting, making household decisions, communicating and problem solving.
Rick Garcia, a nonprofit executive, a civil rights advocate, blogger and a contributing writer for The New Citizens Press can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This was printed in the September 8, 2013 - September 21, 2013 Edition