Ethics: Age Discrimination

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Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Danni Hartley

Ethics, Philosophy 3108

12/1/2010
Ellen Six

Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Age discrimination occurs when a decision is made on the basis of a person’s age. In the workplace, these are most often than not decisions made about recruitment, promotion and termination. In other words, discrimination can be defined as the actions arising from institutions and individuals that disproportionally and systematically harm members of socially marginalized groups. Discrimination can have consequences in it’s own right affecting health, well-being and occupational behavior resting on the notion there can be legitimate differential treatment of people on the basis of visible characteristics of age. Although such discrimination could be seen as reluctance to hire workers who were perceived to be too young and immature for the job, in practice it refers to a bias against older workers. In dealing with expected age preference for workers some evidence suggests that negative attitudes to the age of workers will not be linear but rather characterized by cycles over the life course. Traditionally, age discrimination has been relatively high in the 20s, decline in the 30s and then rises again. Unexpectedly, some studies have found that is begins to decline again around age 55. However, workers approaching 50 and those nearing the normative or conventional retirements age of 65, are most vulnerable to experiencing discrimination and more predominantly an issue for workers skilled or semi-skilled. In 2000 worker’s median age was 45 and by 2005 15% of the U.S. workforce will be over 55. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be over the age of 65. (Gover, Huray, & Matloff, ). Because of financial reasons and the cost of Social Security being too high, older people will need to redefine retirement. For these reason, the workforce will look to extend employment well past today’s retirement age of 65 until the age of 75.

In societies that celebrate youthfulness above all else, it can be very difficult for even highly qualified professionals to find new positions after the age of 50. But for most older workers, there appears little they can do to resist being swept aside in exchange of younger replacements. Many of those retiring early from companies are being forced out by companies to replace them with younger workers or immigrant workers with the idea of substantially lowering wage rates. The amount of age discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has risen 23.5%, which indicates a fast growing category where overwhelming evidence points directly at U.S. companies as the culprit. It is not always easy; however, to gauge how attitudes might translate into discriminatory behaviors, but there are many examples that indicate that biases and preconceptions among the aging population exists. It has been found that 84% of Americans, 60 and older, report one or more incidents of ageism. This reports include insulting jokes, disrespect, patronizing behavior and assumptions about frailty or ailments and such patterns are manifested through a culture consumed with “youth” and these biases are passed along, socialized and enacted within institutions and organizations (Roscigno, Mong, Byron, & Tester 2007). Age discrimination can result in lower levels of organizational commitment for older workers; whereby, they can be actively and systematically forced out of a particular job. Although cost savings is the most common form of age discrimination, it is often justified by claiming older workers cost more with wage increases and healthcare costs as the cause. Replacing older workers with younger ones circumvents pension payouts and decreases wages. Moreover, promotions and on-the-job training opportunities can be reserved for younger workers who are viewed as cheaper and more worthy of the long-term investment (Roscigno, Mong, Byron, & Tester...
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