Last week, we published a blog covering four ways you can work against ageist practices in your workplace. While it’s a good start to identifying the subtle ways ageism can sneak in, it’s essential to address some more concrete ways ageism takes place.
Get to know the stats
Ageism is, without a doubt, a heavy burden on the American people and our country as a whole. Last year, the AARP released a study that calculated the U.S. lost $850 billion in GDP due to ageist practices against older workers in 2018. The same study projects that by 2050, the losses resulting from age discrimination could reach up to $3.9 trillion.
These ageist practices keep older workers out of the job market, impact any dependents they have, and force family members to pick up the slack. The study found 57% of GDP revenue lost was caused by workers forced into involuntary retirement.
Making a stand
Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers 40 and over from being denied work and put at a disadvantage due to their age, a Supreme Court 2009 ruling made it more difficult for plaintiffs to win cases. The ruling requires plaintiffs to prove their age was the deciding factor in their employer’s decision, removing what’s commonly called “mixed motive” cases from the table.
Last year, in response to the study and following public outcry, a bill (The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act) was introduced to the Senate to amend the Supreme Court’s decision and to make it easier for plaintiffs to make their case. Although this bill is not yet law, it shows a strong push to reject ageism and protect older workers from its destructive impact.
What can you do to ensure your organization isn’t participating in ageist practices?
Educate and enable your employees
A straightforward way to hold your organization accountable? Ensure your employees know their rights and what to do when they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Educate your managers, hiring managers, and leadership team on:
- Good defining traits to inform their decisions (experience, skills, compatibility)
- What needs to be left out of the equation (age, ethnicity, gender, etc.)
- What age discrimination looks like in the workplace (subtleties of language, hiring decisions)
Make sure your employees know they have a right to protect themselves from discrimination and create the expectation that neither you nor they should tolerate any form of it. Create internal channels for employees to address issues and make sure they know what they can do to protect themselves.
Stay on top of internal reviews
When was the last time you looked at your internal practices to uncover malpractice, out-of-date approaches, and possible employee rights violations? Does anyone in your organization have this responsibility, or do you cross your fingers and hope nothing comes up?
Or did you do it at the start of your business but haven’t reviewed your practices in years?
Commit to continually reviewing your internal processes for hiring, promoting, and wage and hour decisions. If you have no system to examine these areas, you will be much more likely to find your business in hot water. The key concept here is to be proactive, not reactive.
Develop impactful policies
There are ways to support older employees and increase their long-term impact and contributions to your organization. Also, keep in mind there are ways to make different roles more accessible to senior professionals. Consider:
- Offering flexible hours
- Offering part-time positions
- Offering skills training
Making quarterly meetings to review benchmarks, wins, and growth areas will help your employees quantify their value to you and provide a record of their contribution and progress within your organization, protecting both their rights and yours.
Lead by example
In the end, organizations must shoulder the responsibility and duty to ensure they are providing just, equitable, and responsible treatment to their employees. Diversifying your workforce in any direction will allow you to grow and allow your community to grow with you. What’s right for your employees is good for you, and what’s right for your industry is good for your country. It’s time to step up to the plate and bat ageism out of the park.
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