In September of 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed four age discrimination lawsuits, settled an age discrimination lawsuit out of court, and won a jury verdict in an age discrimination case. Patricia Barnes wrote at Forbes that these numbers may not seem extraordinary until you consider that the EEOC filed just one age discrimination lawsuit in all of 2016, and 10 in all of 2018 (and this is out of more than 20,000 complaints filed). While this recent activity may end up just a blip on the radar, there is reason to believe it could be the start of a larger trend.
Barnes, a former judge and recognized authority on age discrimination in employment, believes EEOC chair Janet Dhillon will make age discrimination more of a priority going forward. This is contrast to how government agencies have operated over the past decade as the Obama administration in particular emphasized hiring recent college graduates – something the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has had an issue with.
Government agencies at all levels, especially state and local governments, must be careful when hiring or firing older employees. There have been widespread reports about how government organizations are quickly losing older employees to retirement, also known as The Silver Tsunami. To combat this, government organizations must look to replace the skills of these workers to avoid lapses in service.
While government organizations will want to quickly replace these employees, they must ensure that age discrimination is not part of the process in any way. That includes:
- Ensure that those retiring are doing so of their own volition and do not feel pressured to leave their current position. While many will want to retire to move on to the next phase of their life, others may want to continue to work as they love their job and still find it fulfilling.
- Hire the best person regardless of age. There is an inclination to sometimes hire younger people with the belief that have more time in their career to stay in a job. This idea, though, is false. People today switch jobs more than ever before. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the average person keeps a job for an average of 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in 2010. Employees will switch jobs for a wide range of reasons with retirement just being one reason.
- Take a person’s age out of the equation. As with any hiring, look at the person’s qualifications to do the job and ask "Do they have the necessary skills to do the job at hand?" That should always be the dominant factor in hiring, along with other key factors such as personality, reliability, professionalism, and any other factors for success at the job.
Regardless of the EEOC’s enforcement of age discrimination, government agencies need to take the proper steps to ensure that every employee who enters or leaves the organization does so without their age playing a role.
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