More Protections Needed to Address The Problem of Age Discrimination

A 2018 report, prepared by Victoria A. Lipnic then Acting Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, highlighted the agency’s view that protecting the rights of older workers is more important than ever before given the number of older workers in the workforce, the prevalence of age discrimination and the harm that such bias causes to workers and their families.  As the federal agency charged by Congress with enforcing laws protecting workers, the views and recommendations of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are based upon complaints filed by older workers and assessments as to cause and effect.

Notably, the report makes clear that older workers are healthier, more educated, and working and living longer than previous generations. The Baby Boomer Generation ranges in age from 54-72, many with inadequate savings for retirement. This cohort of older workers is followed closely by the leading edge of Generation X, now in their early 50’s.  And, as of 2016, Millennials surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest segment of today’s workforce.  As these generations continue to age, the need to put to rest outdated assumptions about older workers and meaningfully address their loss of employment as they age drastically increases.

The report indicates that older workers although more experienced are more likely to lose a job.  Those who lose a job have much more difficulty finding a new job as compared to younger workers. Further, many of today’s older workers cannot financially afford to retire so the need to work and earn a living wage is critical.  However, age discrimination, based primarily on unfounded and outdated assumptions about abilities, persists causing significant hard and costs to older workers and their families.

In 1967, Congress created the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to address the then existent and pervasive misconceptions about the abilities of older workers.  Despite the passage of this statute, much has not changed for older workers, rather, the most dramatic change has been the increase in the number of older workers still working or re-entering the workforce. Increased participation by older women in the labor force is a significant factor in the growth of the older workforce.  According to a 2017 Bureau of Labor report, women age 55 and older are projected to make up over 25 percent of the women’s labor force by 2024.

Meaningful protections are needed to address both the ineffectiveness of the ADEA and the continuing financial harm caused to older workers and their families.

On January 15, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) passed in the house and is a meaningful effort to amend the ADEA and its failure to address the problem of age discrimination. It is an important piece of legislation needed to protect older workers and their families. The Senate has yet to decide the bill.

For more information or to consult with an experienced NYC employment discrimination attorney, please contact Colleen M. Meenan at Meenan & Associates, LLC.

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