Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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Becoming old can be a daunting experience, having to worry about employment when you become older can be even worse. Age discrimination should not be something an older person in the workforce has to worry about, but today it is still one of the most common forms of discrimination. This paper will review the definition of discrimination and age discrimination, what the current laws are regarding age discrimination, how prevalent age discrimination is today, some of the perceived plusses and minuses of an older workforce, a personal story about age discrimination, and some methods on how to prevent age discrimination in the workplace.

Discrimination is a word that carries a very high negative connotation. It is a word and act that society has been struggling with every since there were two people on this planet. The dictionary defines discrimination as a “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.” There are many types of discrimination in the workforce; race, color, religion, sex, national origin and age. Age discrimination is defined as an “unfair or unequal treatment of an employee by an employer because of the employee's age.” Being discriminated against for any reason is a battle that we have to continue to fight against. As workers become older in the workforce today, they are a group that has to be protected against unfair or unequal treatment.

The United States government made headway against discrimination by adopting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is commonly known as TitleVII. This act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. From there the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was introduced. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals between the ages of 40 to 65 from employment discrimination based on age. The upper limit was extended to 70 in 1978 and then the limit was removed completely later on. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment -- including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees who work more than 20 weeks in a year, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. This act provides substantial and adequate support for people 40 years or older when finding a new employer. When it pertains to older workers and benefits, “The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA)” amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees. An employer may reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADEA. If a person believes they have been discriminated against because of age, they have to file a complaint with the EEOC. A charge must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation. This limit can be extended to 300 days if a state or local anti-discrimination law also covers the charge. To be able to file a case against age discrimination, you must establish prima facie. To establish prima facie, you must prove: 1) they are...
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