Thursday, February 28, 2013

Age Discrimination

Written by: Christine Marah

Age Discrimination
The definition of discrimination is ‘recognizing difference among items or people’ (Jackson & Mathis, p. 74).   More in depth, according to the Employment Act of 1967, organizations are forbidden from discriminating against individuals 40 or older as a result of their age in the hiring and firing process (Jackson & Mathis, p. 94).  Surprisingly, white males in managerial and professional positions that were between the ages of 50 and 59 were the filed age discrimination lawsuits most frequently (Crampton & Hodge, 2007).  A study was conducted in 1996, which indicated that the number of age discrimination lawsuits filed had increased by 26 percent (Crampton & Hodge, 2007).  Unfortunately, when an employee files an age discrimination lawsuit, it is hard to prove that age discrimination has taken place.  However, when an employee files and wins an age discrimination lawsuit, the awards are much higher than any other discrimination case filed.  On average, employees were granted $219,000 who filed an age discrimination complaint, compared to an average of $145,000 for race discrimination, $100,000 for disability, or $106,000 for sex discrimination (Crampton & Hodge, 2007). 
Before The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was enforced by the Congress, many major organizations required their older employees to retire, often before they were ready to. The retirees were then replaced by new, younger employees (Johnson & Neumark p.3). Although it is now considered illegal for organizations to force older individuals into retirement, many companies continue to pressure their older employees to do so. In fact, over 10,000 complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1990 alone regarding age discrimination (Johnson & Neumark p. 3).
Both young and older workers experience age discrimination in the workforce.  If a young co-worker has a higher status position compared to the older co-worker, the older co-worker tends to think that the younger co-worker does not have the ability to fulfill the job requirements due to lack of experience.  However, age discrimination is more common among older employees. 

After the economic recession, it became more common for employees to work and retire at older ages. Employees between the ages of 50 and 55 begin to worry about job security and how they are and will be perceived in the workforce (Tarkan 2012).  A survey was conducted to determine the perception of ageism that effected the motivation of the employees in their working environment (Tarkan 2012).  Over 4,000 employees between the ages of 18-94 participated in the survey (Tarkan 2012).  The results of the survey indicated that older employees are, the less likely to get promotions (Tarkan 2012). In fact, ageism is so deeply ingrained in society, that many do not even realize when age discrimination occurs because it is considered socially acceptable in our society (Tarkan 2012).  For example, once someone reaches a certain age, he or she qualifies for senior citizen discounts (Tarkan 2012).  The older generation is constantly getting treated differently from the younger generations.  When people age, they usually want to feel as young as possible, but how can they feel that way if they are being treated differently from everyone else? 

Ageism is one thing that everyone has to face.  As employees get older, they gain more experience and will expect higher wages (Crampton & Hodge, 2007).  One aspect of the aging process is that we always hear of people getting sick, injured, having a disease or cancer (Crampton & Hodge, 2007).  Recoveries for older employees tend to take longer than recovery for younger employees if they were to get injured (Crampton & Hodge, 2007).  But, if an organization is going to offer a benefits package, they need to take into consideration a possible increase in cost if their employees are to become ill. Healthcare costs for younger individuals tend to be less than for older individuals. Another aspect that an organization needs to take into consideration of not wanting to have older employees is the turnover rate and the organizations image. When an individual is seeking a long term employment opportunity and growth with an organization they may become apprehensive about accepting a position due to the organization’s high turnover rate.  Also, if an organization is known for their high turnover rates due to possible age discrimination, the current older employees will not perform at their maximum potential.  The older employees may feel unvalued, or uncomfortable at work as a result of an aging process that they are unable to control, which could lead to heightened stress in the workplace.  An increase in someone’s stress level often results in more frequent doctor visits and an increase in prescribed prescriptions.  Increases in employees’ doctor visits and prescribed prescriptions results in an increase the cost of benefits for the organization. While, organizations may not want take the responsibility for the increased cost of healthcare, they are ultimately responsible.

Taking all the protected classes into consideration, ageism is the last discrimination case to get recognized (Tarkan 2012). Analyzing all the protected classes lawsuit cases, the victims of age discrimination are awarded more money than any the other protected class. Experts, who conducted an extensive research on how an organization performs, found that the relationship between age and work experience is essential (Gyeke & Salminen 2009). As employees grow/age with the organization, they tend to be more content with their job (Gyeke & Salminen 2009).  Employees are quickly to discriminate against other employees when they make a mistake at work but, we never take into consideration the other employees’ feelings.  As employees age, they are getting discriminated against at work and even in society which tends to make them feel less valued and unwanted (Tarkan 2012). 

Crampton, M. S, Hodge W. J. (2007). Age Discrimination and Downsizing.
                The Business Review, Cambridge, 7 (1), 341-347.
Gyekye, A. S, Salminen, S. (2009) Age and Workers’ Perceptions of Workplace Safety: A
                Comparative Study. INT’L. J. Aging and Human Development, 68(2), 171-184.

Jackson, H. J., & Mathis, L. R. (2009). Human Resource Management, 13th Edition. South
                Western: Cengage Learning. 

Johnson, W. R., Neumark, D. (1996). NBER Working Paper Series.

Tarkan, L. (2012). Is Ageism Widespread in the Workplace?. Fox News.

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