In 1981, MTV launched on cable television. Donkey Kong was released. Walter Cronkite signed off for the last time. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female justice of the Supreme Court. It was a banner year that also marked the birth of the millennials. It’s hard to believe that the first children born of the generation who became adults at the beginning of the third millennium (A.D.) is turning 40. What’s the significance of that? Millennials can now sue for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).
Laws protect older workers
The ADEA is federal protection against employment age discrimination. The ADEA is fairly broad, protecting workers over the age of 40 from discrimination in hiring, promotions, firing and layoffs. Although the ADEA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees, many states have additional laws that prohibit age discrimination.
For example, Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code forbids discrimination against people over the age of 40. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. While age discrimination is prohibited, 50 years after the ADEA was enacted, the EEOC reported that 60% of older workers have experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
What should employers know?
Employers need to be aware of age discrimination in the workplace and make sure they have procedures to avoid ageism. Train managers and employees to recognize ability outside of age. When making job decisions, leave age and bias out of your process. Engage with older workers to create a culture of inclusivity.
The generation gap may be real. Millennials have many different expectations out of the workplace over their Baby Boomer parents. As millennials enter a new phase in their career and can now sue under the ADEA, it might bring these three generations closer than ever before. Ageism in the workplace is real, even though it is against the law. With millennials able to experience it, maybe we can keep the dialogue alive to bring an end to it.