The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees aged 40 and up. Federal law applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
In Texas, for example, it’s illegal for private employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate based on age. A Federal Court has ruled that age discrimination is only illegal against employees, but AARP has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.
The EEOC received over 16,000 age discrimination complaints in 2018, which is lower than previous years, but it’s not something your business wants to deal with. Age discrimination just cost one Texas employer more than $85K for casting off an older worker. Avoid costly claims and fines by making sure that your workplace is discrimination-free.
1. Watch how you describe jobs.
Identifying a position for a “young” tech-savvy college student could be misconstrued as age discrimination. Avoid using terminology that makes indicates that a person must be younger to fit into your culture. Rather than try to find the right words to fit the person you’re looking for, describe the job itself.
2. What information do you really need on a job application?
It’s not illegal to ask a person’s age or when they graduated high school, but it is illegal to use that information in determining whether you’d hire them or not. Asking for that information could be used as evidence that age influenced a hiring decision. Choose questions carefully on your company’s job application. Talk to a good recruiting specialist or lawyer to help you stay out of trouble.
3. Watch what you say during interviews.
Collecting information about someone’s age during an interview could also get you into hot water. Don’t bring up children or grandchildren. It seems innocuous enough, but if the person makes a complaint to the EEOC, it could come up again.
Make sure interviewers know what types of questions could be inappropriate. Have a structured interview guide that provides consistency across applicants, regardless of age. It is also a good idea to keep good records about how decisions were made.
4. Be aware of diversity and implicit biases in the hiring process.
There’s plenty of research that demonstrates implicit bias in hiring. Implicit bias describes the attitudes we have toward others that we’re not really conscious about. This could include stereotypes about retirement or that an older person might be uncomfortable working for a younger manager. Implicit bias is what makes you choose someone based on a similarity to yourself, rather on their skills. Look around your office and see if you have a diverse workplace.
5. Avoiding age discrimination isn’t about quotas.
To fight age discrimination, you can’t just focus on how many people you employ of a certain age group. You have to really look at the overall culture of your organization. Telling hiring managers to hire someone over the age of 65 doesn’t change attitudes.
Educate your managers about age discrimination. Encourage your team to interact with people of all ages, whether through volunteerism, classes at the local college or book clubs. Eliminate biases that cause age discrimination by widening your social circles. Seniors bring a lot of experience and soft skills to the workplace that can benefit your business.
Bottom line: Don’t discount someone based on age.