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Oklahoma senior employeeTips to avoid discrimination suits

by VFISHRHelp.com

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study earlier this year that reveals the difficulties older Americans are encountering when they lose their jobs.

The study found that from December 2007 to February 2010, the unemployment rate for workers over 55 years of age more than doubled - 7.6 percent. Although it is still lower than the current national average of 8.3 percent, older workers spend a longer period of time unemployed. 

The average length of time spent unemployed for the general population is 37.4 weeks. For unemployed workers who are 55 and older, the average is 51 weeks. Furthermore, the chances that an older worker will find a job decrease the longer they are unemployed.

In addition to the study, the GAO conducted a series of focus groups to better understand the situation facing older unemployed workers. They discovered many instances of age discrimination. One individual told the GAO interviewer that local employers requested that she screen out all applicants over age 40.

In addition, the GAO found that workers in their late 50s and early 60s were less likely to replace their previous income when they did find a job, compared to workers under age 55. "Long-Term Unemployment: A National Crisis for Older Workers," www.huffingtonpost.com (Sept. 5, 2012).

Commentary and Checklist

Some employers are tempted to hire only younger workers because younger workers tend to expect lower wages and often have lower health care costs. 

Missing in this analysis is the experience and skills older workers bring to the workforce. Older workers are especially adept at training and mentoring of younger employees.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects older workers from discrimination based on age. For this reason, employers must establish an age discrimination policy that covers all areas of employment including hiring.

In 2011, age discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made up 23.5 percent of the total number of charges filed. Employers must stay vigilant for signs of age discrimination in their recruiting and hiring practices. According to the EEOC, employers should not specify age preferences, limitations, or specifications in job notices or advertisements or at any time during the interview process. Although the law does not specifically prohibit asking an applicant his or her age or date of birth, those questions can indicate possible intent to discriminate and should be avoided.

Here are some additional tips to avoid age discrimination risks:
  • Develop an age discrimination policy that includes a complaint procedure.
  • Train all supervisors annually on discriminatory practices and behaviors, and prevention.
  • Post and provide a copy of the policy and procedures to all employees annually.
  • Have all employees sign an acknowledgment of the policies and procedures, once hired and after every major revision.
  • Follow your policy and procedures and thoroughly investigate any complaints, age or otherwise.
  • Analyze your policies and procedures annually for updates to comply with any new regulations and laws and change any outdated or ineffective policies or procedures.
  • Document and support all adverse employment actions, like a failure to hire, termination, and failure to promote, with adequate paperwork demonstrating the foundation for any legitimate, non-discriminatory reason.
  • Carefully analyze the exposures associated with terminating any employee age 40 or older prior to making a termination decision.
  • Seek the advice of an attorney before implementing any new age-related policies.
All rights reserved VFIS Oct 03 2012
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