It’s about time the media started addressing the workplace ism that’s been ignored for years–ageism. Shifting demographics are raising a thunderous roar of voices calling attention to the issue and demanding action. Now the topic of ageism is a daily topic of discussion in organizations and in social and online media.
Just yesterday, Fast Company wrote that tech has an ageism problem and suggested three things people 40 and over should do to stay relevant. Spoiler alert: These tips apply to anyone of any age. But what’s important is that people are finally addressing the elephant in the room–workplace age bias and discrimination and the plethora of myths, assumptions and stereotypes that drive them.
That’s good news because workplace ageism is real and impacts people across the age spectrum.
A couple of days ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer posted the story “Addressing ageism with urgency,” citing a World Health Organization report around the importance of changing the narrative around age and aging and adopting strategies to counter ageist attitudes and behavior. Although the report was published last March, companies (and the media) are just getting their heads around it.
And that’s good because ageism is a global phenomenon that requires global action to address.
Once everyone begins talking about workplace ageism, accountability measures will become commonplace. Perhaps driven by federally mandated legislation.
A third article, “Trump Judge Dismisses Age Discrimination Case Despite Credible Evidence: Our Court, Our Fight,” outlines Eleventh Circuit Judge Robert J. Luck’s dismissal of an assistant county attorney’s claim that he was fired due to age discrimination. The authors assert this ruling “sets a troubling precedent in age bias cases that will hurt working people in all the states covered by the Eleventh Circuit (Florida, Georgia, and Alabama).”
While that’s bad news on the surface, Congress has two pieces of legislation to remedy the problem. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act or POWADA eases the burden of proof for the complaining party. The bill permits the complaining party to rely on any type or form of admissible evidence sufficient for a reasonable finding that an unlawful practice occurred and declares that the complaining party shall not be required to demonstrate that age or retaliation was the sole cause of the employment practice.
The second piece of legislation is Protect Older Job Applicants or POJA, which prohibits employers from limiting, segregating, or classifying job applicants based on an applicant’s age, and requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to study and report on claims received from job applicants involving age discrimination. Both are long overdue and absolutely necessary to combat age discrimination in hiring.
Both pieces of legislation currently reside in the Senate pending further review. In the meantime, what is certain is that companies can no longer deny that age, like every other protected dimension of diversity, deserves leadership attention and action.
10 Ways Leaders Can Take Action Now
Here are ten steps companies can take to get ahead of age-related issues and ensure workplace age equity.
COVID-19 has demonstrated that workplace change can happen overnight. Waking up to the importance of age equity has been painfully slow. However, the increase in dialogue addressing the issue is reassuring.
The truth is, age equity is not about people over 40 staying relevant–that’s a given for anyone seeking employment, regardless of age.
What people are counting on are leaders ensuring their organizations remain relevant. And that means understanding how to attract, develop and retain a diverse, all-aged workplace.
by: Sheila Callaham
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