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Age Discrimination Claims on the Rise
Claims made under federal age discrimination laws are on the rise. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicate a 28.7% increase in age discrimination claims in 2008 from the year before. In fact, a record 24,582 claims were filed against employers in 2008. There are three primary reasons for the recent rise in claims: an aging workforce, the recent economic downturn, and pervasive workplace age stereotypes.
The first reason is the rise of an aging workforce. Increases in life expectancy have led to an increasing population of American workers over 40. In 1996, the median age of American workers was 40. Today, half of all American workers are 45 or older. Furthermore, the median worker age is expected to continue to rise due to the extension in the full retirement age for Social Security benefits, improved health of older persons, and limited retirement savings. Experts have projected that the American population aged 65 to 74 is projected to grow 74% between 1990 and 2020, while the population under 65 will grow by only 24%. As the population inevitably continues to age, the potential for age discrimination increases as well.
The recent economic recession has also had a hand in the rise of age discrimination claims. The current financial crisis and stiff competition has forced many companies to drastically down-size. Since older workers have seniority and typically earn more than their younger counterparts, they run the greatest risk of falling victim to the proverbial ax. The mass layoffs caused by drastic downsizing have lead to a significant increase in the number of age discrimination lawsuits. Unfortunately, with the graying of the workforce and a continued recession, it can be expected that age discrimination claims will continue to increase.
The final and most significant reason why age discrimination still persists is pervasive workplace stereotypes. The perpetuation of ageism in the workplace can be directly attributed to age stereotypes. The most common misconceptions about older workers include resistance to change, technological ignorance, and lack of energy and flexibility.
In their extensive 2009 study on age stereotypes in the workplace, Richard A. Posthuma and Michael A. Campion identified the five most common negative stereotypes about older workers. They include poor performance, resistance to change, lower ability to learn, shorter tenure, and more costly. The study, which consisted of 24,219 people with varying occupation, found that performance actually improves with age and tenure since the person gains more experience in their occupation. They study also determined that while there is some evidence to suggest that salaries of older workers may be higher than those of younger workers, other factors such as lower levels of absenteeism among older workers may offset these salary differentials. In sum, the study found that most age stereotypes are simply inaccurate.
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- Age Discrimination Claims on the Rise
Summary of reasons why age discrimination claims are increasing. Discusses an aging workforce, the economic recession, and workplace stereotypes.