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Contributing Author: Martha Head

As the number of American workers work past traditional retirement age, the impacts of age discrimination are also on the rise. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census reveal that in 2020, 19.5 percent of Americans over 65 were working or looking for work.  

In 1985, only 10 percent of older Americans were in the labor force. Even though many employers declare that they need more workers, they may be missing out on a segment of the workforce by implementing biased practices toward older workers and applicants. A 2021 AARP survey shows that 78 percent of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, so negative age-based interactions are much more likely than positive ones. 

Why Employers Should Avoid Age Discrimination:

Bias against older workers cost the U.S. economy an estimated $850 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, according to a report from AARP and the Economist Intelligence Unit. 

At a time when businesses struggle to retain quality workers, the answer may be in recruiting and retaining the older professional. It has been reported that millennials leave their employers after three years, on average.

Older workers, on the other hand, typically remain on the job longer. Not only will employers get a better return on their investment in those employees, but the older worker will also be able to mentor new workers with their years of experience and knowledge.

Here are a few other reasons employers should avoid committing age discrimination, and instead, should look into implementing worker-friendly policy like salary transparency:

Legal Consequences: Age discrimination is illegal under various laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in the United States. Employers who engage in age discrimination can face legal action, including lawsuits, fines, and negative publicity.

Ethical Reasons: Age discrimination is unfair and can be hurtful to individuals who have valuable skills and experience to offer. Everyone should have an equal opportunity to apply for and secure employment, regardless of their age.

Business Benefits: Older workers can bring a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experience to an organization. Age diversity can lead to increased creativity, productivity, and innovation, and can help companies better understand and serve their customers.

Employee Morale: Discrimination of any kind can negatively impact employee morale and create a toxic work environment. Avoiding age discrimination can help create a more positive and inclusive workplace culture.

Oh, and also…it’s the right thing to do.

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