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Age bias claims highlight pitfalls of omitting older workers from DEI goals

Age discrimination prevails in the workplace, despite legal safeguards and certification initiatives.

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89% of older workers express a preference for companies explicitly welcoming to their age group.
Concerns have been raised about quotas favoring “early career” hires.
Resolved age bias cases in 2023 reveals recurring patterns.

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Often overlooked in the realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, age is a significant concern within the workplace, protected by federal law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, enacted three years subsequent to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, safeguards older workers.

The Age-Friendly Institute, appropriately named, recently expanded its certification for age-inclusive employers on January 22. According to their findings, a substantial 89% of older workers express a preference for companies explicitly welcoming to their age group.

However, a pervasive issue of coolness or outright hostility towards older professionals persists. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has actively targeted ageism in the workplace, resolving 12,082 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)-related cases in the fiscal year 2022, a slight decrease from the previous year’s 13,060 and the year before that’s 15,344.

Addressing age-related bias in the workplace remains a critical aspect of fostering a truly inclusive environment.

An analysis of resolved age bias cases in 2023 reveals recurring patterns. Microaggressions, like pressuring a colleague to retire, are one manifestation. Another is seen in succession planning, where a senior employee trains a replacement only to be inexplicably terminated. Ageism can also appear in the hiring process, with requests to exclude older candidates from consideration.

Furthermore, instances of age discrimination extend to HR professionals who challenge such prejudiced practices, resulting in their dismissal. Notably, concerns have been raised about quotas favoring “early career” hires, leading to settlements in two cases involving a prominent healthcare employer.

This pervasive issue demands attention throughout various stages of employment, from the initial candidate evaluation to the handling of workforce reductions. Addressing age-related bias in the workplace remains a critical aspect of fostering a truly inclusive environment.

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