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Thesis Statement: It is essential to address and mitigate ageism to stem the financial crisis of older workers and their retirement.
One way that the government can address ageism is through regulating policies and reforming social security benefits. The United States passed The Age Discrimination Law Act of 1975 to protect workers over forty. This act allows candidates to be considered for all employment types regardless of age (U.S. Department of Labor, 2020). Though this is the case, many older workers are likely to leave physically demanding jobs due to health problems and get jobs that are not as stressful. McLaughlin says, “older workers who would like to work longer may find it difficult to do so if there is persistent age discrimination in the workplace, or if they face physical challenges in their work” (p.). Employers should accommodate older workers just like they do disability workers. Employers could offer a better healthcare package, a manageable work schedule, and educating older workers on saving and planning for retirement. Social Security is one way that retired workers get benefits. Over the years, the age to retire increased while the budget for the benefits decreased. The increase in retirement age has led older employees to work past the retirement age and not claim social security benefits. McLaughlin observes that states with strict age discrimination laws have also reformed social security benefits to older workers (McLaughlin, 2019, p.). Although laws are placed for age discrimination, older workers are always discouraged by job descriptions and hiring and recruiting.
Ageism can be mitigated by regulating the hiring and recruiting process. According to Kenneth Terrell from AARP, though laws were passed so older workers a fair chance at all jobs, many employers still use age discriminating verbiage (2019, b). The human resource management (HRM) needs to be mindful of the wording used in the job description to not discriminate against a candidate’s age. The use of biased languages, such as “Current College Students — Now Hiring Product Demonstrators!” and “The ideal candidate is a digital native” on LinkedIn job postings, plainly discriminates against older workers. Hiring managers also tend to have stereotypical views towards older workers, hence disregarding potential candidates. One way is to enforce “moderators [that] could occur at two stages in the process – either to minimize the activation of stereotypes or reduce the utilization of the stereotypes on decisions. A recent call for rigorous research on the aging workforce in terms of HR processes includes the need for studies that would help HRM researchers, and practitioners determine how to best conduct employment selection (talent acquisition) while aiming to minimize age discrimination” (Fischer et al.,2017, p.318). HRMs have increasingly been trying to reduce age-based discrimination. Prior research has also shown that older workers perform their jobs better than younger workers. Incorporating an age-diverse workforce opens the door to growth and development.
Another way to stem ageism is to mandate employers to provide training that targets age discrimination and include mentorship programs. These training programs need to be designed to remind managers and employees not to discriminate against older workers based on their age. An example of an excellent training program would be role-playing. Employees and managers could reverse roles and make conversations related to work, essentially being in another person’s shoes, so the managers and employees feel the same way older workers do. “Interactive experiences such as [role-playing] can help illustrate not only the content of the stereotype but how it can affect assumptions and decisions” (Maurer & Rafuse, 2001, p.118). Role-playing is also instrumental for managers to realize how they have stereotypical thoughts and usually decide based on that. Incorporating mentorship programs so that older and younger workers perform in a collaborative setting can lower the stereotypical thinking about older workers. Mentors usually give advice, teach, and allow employees to shadow and have real-life job experiences. “However, as younger and older workers interact together in the close relationship of mentor and mentee, understanding and trust develop, and biased perceptions diminish”(Gibson et al., 2010, p.57). By introducing a mentorship program, younger and older workers learn from each other and become equals. These programs will help with workers progressing, excelling, and given a fair chance regardless of age.
Like it or not, American culture celebrates youth, and until that changes, ageism will continue. Younger workers are always chosen compared to older workers and are more knowledgeable about current technologies and trends. Workers, regardless of age, could progress from learning and training about new technologies and trends. Diane Huth, a 70-year-old worker, says, “I worked in corporate America for more than 40 years … I cannot get a job, the same job I rocked 15 years ago. I cannot even get an interview for that job because of all the screening mechanisms. I’m just too old; nobody takes me seriously for a job at my age, even in things I had excelled at” (Kita, 2019). From this example, it is clear that age discrimination starts at the hiring process and ends at retirement. Diane confesses that most jobs filter out the older demographic regardless of their experience in the field and fail to take them seriously. Subtle ageism is a rising problem in the workplace, and workers have not yet recognized its weight. Kristen Alden, an employee rights attorney, voices that “age discrimination is so pervasive that people don’t even recognize it’s illegal” (Kita, 2019), and this discourages older workers. Older workers have started to change up their resumes to fit the current hiring style. They deliberately leave out their age and tweak their experiences, so hiring managers get a chance to review the resumes. Older workers are aware of the stereotypes and are working harder to get around the system and get recognized for their potential.
Regardless of stereotypes, because ageism significantly impacts retirement, laws need to protect older workers. In the case of Gross vs. FBL Financial Services Inc., it iterated that if the plaintiff is not able to prove age was the reason for “illegal bias,” then the case would not be considered discrimination (Terrell, 2019a). These types of rulings have not favored older workers, and over the years, older workers have stopped trying to get legal help. Smith states, “The U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 15  passed by a vote of 261 to 155 the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA), which would permit plaintiffs to sue for age discrimination even if age was not the sole cause of the challenged employment decision” (2020). The House and the Senate have taken the first step to help older workers with age discrimination. It is now time for age stereotypes among employees and hiring managers to diminish. It is only possible through a change in policies and training on age-based discrimination.
Fisher, G. G., Truxillo, D. M., Finkelstein, L. M., & Wallace, L. E. (2017). Age discrimination: Potential for adverse impact and differential prediction related to age. Human Resource Management Review, 27(2), 316-327. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hrmr.2016.06.001
Gibson, J. W., Jones, J. P., Cella, J., Clark, C., Epstein, A., & Haselberger, J. (2010). Ageism and the baby boomers: Issues, challenges, and the TEAM approach. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (CIER), 3(1), 53-59. https://doi.org/10.19030/cier.v3i1.161
Kita, J. (2019, December 30). Age discrimination still thrives in America. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus/info-2019/age-discrimination-in-america.html
Maurer, T. J., & Rafuse, N. E. (2001). Learning, not litigating: Managing employee development and avoiding claims of age discrimination. Academy of Management Perspectives, 15(4), 110-121. https://doi.org/10.5465/ame.2001.5898395
McLaughlin, J. S. (2019). Age discrimination laws, physical challenges, and work accommodations for older adults: How effective are age discrimination laws in aiding older workers? And what policies might help to strengthen these laws? Generations, 43(3), 59-62.
Smith, A. (2020, February 28). House passes, protecting older workers against Discrimination Act. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/house-passes-protecting-older-workers-against-discrimination-act.aspx
Terrell, K. (2019, February 14). Legislation to fight age discrimination was introduced in Congress. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2019/bills-protect-older-workers.html
Terrell, K. (2019, October 30). Age-biased language persists in job postings. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/work/working-at-50-plus/info-2019/age-bias-job-listings.html
U.S. Department of Labor. (, 2020). Age discrimination. https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/agedisc