Older Workers Hit Hard by Country’s Economic Woes
By Samuel Cordes
A recent survey performed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) confirms what many older jobseekers have suspected – the country’s economic crisis seems to be disparately affecting older workers. Allegations of age discrimination have risen about 30 percent since 2006. In fact, complaints of age discrimination reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are at an all-time high, and they now account for over a quarter of all work-related complaints.
The AARP survey – which included 1000 people over the age of 50 – found that not only are older workers reporting that themselves or loved ones have faced discrimination in the workplace, they also are seeing bias in their attempts to secure a new position.
Harder to Keep a Job, Harder to Find a New One
Countless American companies have gone through a period of restructuring where it is common to have mass layoffs, workers forced into early retirement or salary cuts. Unfortunately, older workers are increasingly anxious about securing additional employment or finding a higher-paying position as they creep closer to retirement age. In spite of their advanced professional experiences and a lifetime of hard work, jobseekers over the age of 50 are looking for employment an average of three months longer than their younger counterparts.
Fighting Discrimination With Legislative Action
Senators Chuck Grassley, Tom Harkin and Patrick Leahy have proposed legislation that would help ensure fair treatment of older workers and job applicants. The “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act” (POWADA) would remove a landmark 2009 Supreme Court case that raised the evidentiary burden on complainants alleging discrimination on the basis of age. That case made the level of evidence needed to prove age discrimination higher than that required to prove discrimination because of race, gender, religion, national origin and ethnicity, essentially forcing plaintiffs to show that an adverse employment-related decision was based primarily on age, not some other factor like a lack of experience or a history of poor performance.
If passed, POWADA would lower the evidentiary burden and make it easier for those facing age discrimination to seek the legal relief they deserve. Until the POWADA passes, however, allegations of age discrimination are hard to prove in court. If you or a loved one is suffering from the effects of age-related discrimination, consider speaking with an employment law attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.