Diversity in the Workforce-Age Discrimination

Diversity in the Workforce-Age Discrimination



Diversity in the Workforce-Age Discrimination

The federal law protects people aged 40 years or older from age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The law aims at ensuring that older workers are able to get equal chances of employment, based on their abilities, and not on their age. The law on age discrimination is not only applicable to employers, but it also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations. Law discrimination applies to different situations and circumstances including recruitment, hiring and firing, compensation, promotions, layoffs, and in job advertisements. The Age Discrimination Act, which was established in 1975, ensures that people are not discriminated against because of their age in programs and activities that receive assistance from the federal government. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to employers who have twenty or more workers (EEOC, n. d.).

Discrimination of older workers in employment is primarily a question of the employers’ attitude. Some employers avoid hiring older workers because they feel that they are slow learners, and they are not flexible. They tend to think that older workers are more conservative and less open to new ideas compared to their younger counterparts. Some employers do not hire older workers because they think that the workers will be a liability to the organization because many of them are prone to suffer from poor health (Gregory, 2001). In addition, health insurance for older workers tends to be more costly, and employers may want to avoid such risks (Neumark, 2008). Though the law on discrimination may exist to protect the older workers, it has sometimes worked to their disadvantage. ADEA makes it difficult for employers to fire older workers, and this hinders the employers from considering hiring the older workers (Neumark, 2008). Age discrimination cases are hard to prove in a court of law. There are many applicants during the recruitment process, and this makes it easier for employers to choose younger applicants. Employers can claim that they made their choices based on other factors other than the age of the applicants. During layoffs, employers have few workers to choose from, and this makes their work more difficult. It is easier for employees who are laid off to claim age discrimination, than it is for the job applicants to do the same. 

The ADEA makes it legal for employers to discriminate younger workers under the age of forty. The law on age discrimination is controversial because it seems to favor older workers. In many states, people under the age of 40 are not protected by any law. Younger workers face discrimination in the workplace in different forms. They receive lower wages because their employers argue that they do not have enough experience in employment. During job advertisements and recruitments, some employers insist on employing people with experience. They do not want to spend their time and other resources training younger employees. Since the older workers are knowledgeable about the business, they do not need a lot of training, and they can begin working as soon as they are hired. Younger workers who are straight from institutions of higher learning may be qualified in terms of the knowledge they possess, but they do not stand a chance of being employed when the employers insist on having people with experience. Younger workers have to go through long probation periods before being considered for permanent employment (Sargeant, 2011).

It is illegal for employers or other entities in the organization to harass someone because of his or her age. The harasser can be anyone in the organization including supervisors, clients, and co-workers. Harassment affects the employees negatively, and it comes in different forms. It includes teasing and making off hand comments about the person’s age. Harassment includes anything that can violate someone’s dignity by humiliating the person or by making him feel inferior. Some people harass others when they degrade and intimidate them. Some forms of harassment are insidious while others are subtle. Subtle forms of harassment occur when people make inappropriate jokes, which may not be malicious in intent, but which end up upsetting a person. The law does not prohibit teasing, but it is illegal for people to harass others severely to the extent that this creates a hostile work environment (EEOC, n. d.)

Employment policies and practices that apply to everybody irrespective of their ages can be illegal if they have negative effects on employees who are forty years or older, and if they are not based on any other reasonable factor other than age (EEOC, n. d.). The law seems to be focused on a specific age group. When creating their own laws, employers have to consider the people who are aged forty, and they have to accommodate them. However, in most cases, employers often act to their discretion. Many employers choose to avoid lawsuits and many of them aim to create a diverse environment. During layoffs, employers consider the employees who are most productive and who contribute most to the organization. They retain the employees, who in most cases are the workers who have worked for a long time with the organization, and who understand the business. Having a diverse workforce is essential because all the workers are able to learn from each other. Younger workers may not have a lot of experience in the industry, but they may be aware of other trends that can affect the industry.

Age discrimination is hard to prove because there are many factors to consider during the hiring process. However, the law has benefited workers because it has ensured that they are aware of their rights. Workers who think that they are not treated fairly because of their age, and those who face abuse or other harassment because of their ages can use the law to protect themselves. The establishment of the law has ensured that employers are more sensitive towards their workers.


AARP (2011). Employers and state laws on age discrimination. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/work/employee-rights/info-03-2011/employers-state-laws-age-discrimination.html

EEOC (n. d.). Age Discrimination. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Act. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm

Gregory, F. R. (2001). Age discrimination in the American workplace: Old at a young age. Rutgers University Press

Neumark, D. (2008). The age discrimination in employment act and the challenge of population aging. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w14317.pdf?new_window=1

Sargeant, M. (2011). Age discrimination: Ageism in employment and service provision. United Kingdom: Gower Publishing, Ltd.

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