Praeger Handbook on Understanding and Preventing Workplace Discrimination Two Volumes 2 volumes
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Despite these dramatic changes, today's older workers still confront unfounded and outdated assumptions about age and ability and age discrimination persists.
Indeed, 6 out of 10 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace and 90 percent of those say it is common. This report acknowledges the significant harm and costs to older workers, their families, and employers that age discrimination causes. It is time to put to rest outdated and unfounded assumptions about age, older workers, and discrimination. Changing practices can help change attitudes. Thisreport concludes with promising practices for employers to not only avoid age discrimination, but to recognize the value of a multi-generational workforce.
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Simply put, our economy cannot afford to waste the knowledge, talent, and experience of older workers. Congress considered prohibiting age discrimination in employment as part of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of  and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of , but amendments to include age as a protected characteristic failed. The Wirtz Report examined the nature, scope, and consequences of age discrimination in the workplace of the s.
It found that employers believed age impacted ability. It also found that without any factual basis or consideration of individual abilities, employers routinely barred workers in their 40s, 50s, and 60s from a wide range of jobs. The Wirtz Report contrasted this finding that age discrimination derived mostly from unfounded assumptions about ability with its finding that discrimination based on race, national origin and religion derived from "dislike and hostility" - specifically "feelings about people entirely unrelated to their ability to do the job.
The Wirtz Report found that one-half of employers used age limits to deny jobs to workers age 45 and older. The Wirtz Report also examined factors such as health, education, technology and "institutional arrangements" such as personnel policies, seniority systems, and benefit plans that may impact older worker employment. Finally, the Wirtz Report considered the significant consequences of age discrimination on older workers, which it described as hardship and frustration, and on the economy with billion dollar costs in unemployment and early Social Security payouts, plus lost production and earnings.
President Lyndon B. Johnson proposed legislation based in part on the Wirtz Report. Recognizing the challenge of changing both employment practices and attitudes about age and ability,  Congress set forth ambitious purposes for the ADEA:.
Inequality and Organizational Practice
It is therefore the purpose of this chapter to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment. When initially enacted, Congress limited ADEA coverage to individuals age 40 to 64  and again directed the Secretary of Labor to study the ages protected by the statute. In its first decade, the ADEA was expanded to cover federal, state and local government employees. With each significant amendment to the ADEA, Congress laid out the scientific evidence refuting any assumed correlation between age and ability.
Congress initially debated what entity should have enforcement authority for the ADEA. DOL promptly issued regulations in under the ADEA that explicitly rejected the use of age-related assumptions about physical ability. Early in , the Carter Administration recognized that fragmented enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws had impeded their effectiveness and resulted in "regulatory duplication and needless expense for employers. Despite these challenges, the EEOC's litigation docket of ADEA cases grew rapidly in the first few years after it was granted the authority to bring them.
Under its authority to issue substantive ADEA regulations,  the EEOC has issued regulations detailing requirements for waivers under the OWPBA,  exempting retiree health benefits from ADEA coverage,  clarifying that the ADEA does not prohibit employers from favoring older workers,  and explaining the reasonable factor other than age affirmative defense. The workforce of looked very different than it does today. Men worked most of their careers for one company or in one profession and retired at early ages with pensions.
Members of the leading edge of the Baby Boom, those born between and ,  were just entering the work force in Today's US labor force has doubled in size,  and is older, more diverse, more educated, and more female than it was 50 years ago. These trends are expected to continue for decades. The most dramatic changes in the age of the labor force occurred in the last 25 years, as the share of workers age 55 and older in the workforce doubled.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS estimates that the oldest segments of the workforce -- those ages 65 to 74 and 75 and older -- are expected to increase the fastest through Increased labor force participation by older women is a significant factor in this growth of the older workforce.
Women age 55 and older are projected to make up over 25 percent of the women's labor force by , which is almost double their share from BLS also forecasts that twice as many women over 55 will be in the labor force as women ages by BLS also estimates that women over 65 will make up roughly the same percentage of the female workforce as older men do of the male workforce. People are working longer today than their parents and grandparents did for a variety of reasons.
II. A Brief History of the ADEA
The Great Recession of  also known as the Great Dislocation  forced many older workers to revise their retirement plans and to work longer to recoup drained retirement accounts and lost savings. It left many older workers less confident that they would have sufficient income for a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, retirement expectations frequently do not pan out. For example, one study reports that while 40 percent of workers planned to work until age 70 or later, only 4 percent actually do.
In addition, the concept of "retirement" has changed markedly with the Baby Boom generation. Retirement traditionally meant the end of paid employment. Today, retirement can also mean continued employment in another role, job or career. Both the age and diversity of the US workforce has increased considerably over the past decades and will continue to increase in the coming decade. The proportion of Hispanics age 55 to 64 in the workforce jumped from 2 percent in to 11 percent in Hispanics workers also continued working past age 65 at increasing rates, from 1 percent in to 8 percent in The percentage of the labor force age 55 and older consisting of racial and ethnic minorities has grown substantially and is expected to continue to do so into the next decade.
Ages , - Chart 2 . The Wirtz Report noted that older workers were more likely to be employed in coal mining, agriculture, and railroads, and in older manufacturing industries such as textiles, leather, apparel, footwear, and food. The five most common jobs for men and women age 62 and older are: . Notably, many of the most common jobs held by older workers require a college education e. Today, it is estimated that about 44 percent of older workers are employed in jobs with some physical demands or difficult working conditions.
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For example, only about seven percent of all American workers and six percent of older workers hold highly physically demanding jobs, and this number is projected to decline to about five percent by To put this dramatic change of the physical demands of jobs into historical context, many of the jobs held by older workers in the s were in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and railroads and were highly physically demanding. As these industries contracted and as technology has changed how work gets done over the past fifty years, the total percentage of all workers employed in physically demanding jobs has steadily decreased.
Discrimination today, whether based on age, race, sex or other protected characteristics, frequently derives from stereotypes and unconscious bias,  although blatant or explicit discriminatory practices still exist. Unfounded assumptions about age and ability continue to drive age discrimination in the workplace. Research on ageist stereotypes demonstrates that most people have specific negative beliefs about aging and that most of those beliefs are inaccurate. Given the dramatic changes in our understanding of aging, work, and discrimination, it is time to put aside such outdated assumptions about aging and age discrimination; the ADEA was intended and continues to be an important tool to do just that.
Decades of social science research document that age does not predict one's ability, performance, or interest.
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Physical ability also varies considerably from person to person and from one age to another age. While everyone experiences changes in physical functioning as they age, the extent and effects of aging on an individual's physical ability vary considerably from one person to another and are dependent on genetics, lifestyle, fitness, and health status. The notion that age discrimination is different than other forms of discrimination because of different historical origins is a central premise of the Wirtz Report and continues to seep into ADEA jurisprudence today.
For example, even recently, a judge questioned a plaintiff's evidence of age discrimination by saying:. But it's a little bit different because all of us are going to be older or elderly one day. When examined through today's understanding of how discrimination operates, age discrimination is more like, than different from, other forms of discrimination. First, as a legal matter, Congress made irrelevant the view of the Wirtz Report that age discrimination was different by using the same words to prohibit age discrimination as it used in Title VII to prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, and religion.
Second, all employment discrimination shares prejudices about the competence of members of the protected group. For example, race discrimination unquestionably originated from a long history of malice, prejudice and intolerance. Yet, race discrimination also derives from negative views and stereotypes about the abilities of workers of a particular race,  like age discrimination does.
Third, when one compares age to sex discrimination, there are again important similarities. There is substantial evidence that in the s, people believed that one's gender determined one's abilities, interests and qualifications,  just like age. Sex discrimination, like age discrimination, often results from stereotypes about women's abilities and on assumptions about the appropriate roles of women in the workplace and society. In sum, age discrimination shares a commonality with other forms of discrimination, just as the ADEA and Title VII share common purposes and prohibitions.
Thus, this notion that age discrimination is "different" should not justify less protection for older workers in interpreting the ADEA. It is difficult to measure with any accuracy the prevalence of discrimination in the workplace. One indicator of the prevalence of age discrimination is based on research of the perception of age discrimination by older workers in surveys. Another indicator is age discrimination claims.
Most discriminatory and harassing conduct is unreported,  which means charges filed with federal and state enforcement agencies represent a fraction of the likely discrimination that occurs in the workplace. The perception that age discrimination exists in our workplaces is prevalent.