Workplace age discrimination is alive and well in NJ and elsewhere

The Society for Human Resource Management recently published an article noting that, in most industrialized nations, the Baby Boom generation will be reaching the traditional retirement age and leaving the workforce over the next 20 years. To respond to this "exodus" of "talent," it is urged that companies recognize the value of mature workers and develop strategies to retain and engage them. As noted in the article, mature workers-which are defined as those over the age of 50-have "experience and skills honed during decades of employment." Keeping these mature employees is "simply good business."

While SHRM recognizes the value of mature and experienced older workers, unfortunately, this fact is often not recognized by some employers. The EEOC notes that age discrimination complaints have been going up steadily since 1997. Moreover, as observed by the author of an article published in Forbes magazine, age discrimination appears pervasive in the United States. The author's theory is that there are two primary reasons why employers tend to not hire older workers. First, some employers believe that older workers are not quite "as nimble" or as "easy to train" as younger employees. Second, some employers worry that an older person applying for a job is, by definition, overqualified and therefore likely to bolt the minute a better job opportunity comes along.

Acts of age discrimination remains alive and well in New Jersey-as elsewhere-despite the fact that it is prohibited by both the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Indeed, in some sectors of American business, age discrimination is both highly pervasive and well-documented. Fortune magazine reports that, in the high tech industry, youthful workers abound with "few if any grey-haired colleagues in sight." This is not surprising since many tech companies post openings exclusively for new or recent college graduates thereby insuring that "youth rules."

Handling age bias

U.S News and World Report offers some tips on how to deal with age discrimination. First, if you are an older worker who is worried about job security, you should try to refute stereotypes. Make an extra effort to show that you are better qualified for the job you are doing than your colleagues regardless of your age. You might consider taking classes to keep yourself apprised on the latest technology in order to "stay ahead of the curve."

Second, if you have been denied a promotion due to your age, or if you fear that you may soon be laid off due to age bias, collect and retain any documents indicative of age discrimination by your employer. Also keep performance evaluations showing that, until recently, you were always given high marks by your supervisors. Try to gather evidence showing that you are being treated differently than similarly paid employees due to your age.

Third, if you are being harassed by colleagues due to your age, you might try voicing your concerns to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the one harassing you due to your age, you could try talking to someone in the company's human resources department. It is possible that there is an in-house solution for acts of harassment aimed at you due to your age.

Seek legal counsel

If you believe that you were terminated from your job due to age discrimination, you should call a New Jersey attorney experienced in handling employment discrimination cases as soon as possible.