In a July 15th hearing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) examined recent developments under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It was noted that economic conditions and significant layoffs around the country have definitely driven an increase in the number of age discrimination charges. Illegal age-related, conscious or unconscious stereotypes have likely been a big contributor to the problem. Therefore older workers may be disproportionately selected for layoffs and those who do lose their jobs may have more trouble finding new jobs than their younger counterparts.
Frequent stereotypes about older workers include that they are: inflexible, hard to train, costly, unable to accept change, lacking in energy, and are less competent. Further, many may believe that job performance decreases as a worker ages and it’s not worth it to spend money training older employees as they won’t be around long. All of these stereotypes can readily impact layoff decisions.
Several experts who testified at the hearing encouraged the EEOC to develop various new enforcement and policy solutions to combat age discrimination. They included: regulations surrounding the “reasonable factor other than age defense,” guidance regarding the relevance and weight of ageist comments, and tools to clarify recent Supreme Court cases. (e.g., Kentucky RetirementSystems v. EEOC).