In 2005, the national retirement age was pushed from 65 to 67 and the average age of our population is getting older. When you combine these two facts, particularly in this economy, there is a good chance that employers will have many employees over the age of 40. For most people this may seem like a very obvious statement and not worthy of attention. But for employers it is something to keep in mind because there are age discrimination laws to follow and additional factors to consider.
A recent story about job satisfaction showed that older employees tend to enjoy their jobs more than younger employees. Employees were asked about their satisfaction with their jobs and the satisfaction they derived from their job. The research showed that employees over 50 years old had a ninety percent job satisfaction level and a sixty-three percent satisfaction from their jobs. Employees under 30 had eighty percent job satisfaction, but only thirty-eight percent satisfaction from their jobs. The researchers believe that older employees are enjoying their jobs because they know and have settled into their career path; they have experience that younger employees look to for guidance; and they have accrued benefits from their many years of work. All of these reasons make older employees beneficial to their employers and the statistics are a good indicator that employers are managing age diversity well.
However, a different story is seen in an article released around the same time. It discusses an study highlighting the fact that age discrimination is still a real problem. The study took place in England, but according to researchers similar studies in the United States had similar results. The study looked at perceived age discrimination in specific situations where the participants felt they received less respect, were treated like they were less intelligent, or were threatened or harassed. Surprisingly about a third of the participants felt they had suffered from one or more of these behaviors and that it was related to their age. The perceived discrimination was found to have real effects on the participants’ physical and mental health. The study does remind readers that there is a difference between perceived and actual age-based discrimination. But perceived discrimination can be as important to employers as actual discrimination, in some cases.
State and federal law prohibit age discrimination particularly in employment, but in other areas as well. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is the federal law that prohibits any discriminatory actions related to an employee’s age, specifically employees over the age of 40. Washington state law extends protections beyond employment to include areas like housing and public accommodations.
As we have discussed in earlier posts, proving age discrimination can be complex because age discrimination is not always talked about or is as overt as other forms of discrimination. The two studies above show that perceived and actual discrimination are not always one and the same, but the employee that perceives discrimination can experience real problems because of it.
If you are an employer worried about age discrimination or an employee and you believe you have discriminated against because of your age, an experienced Washington employment attorneys can help.