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Do not assume that just because an employee or applicant is a certain age that he or she plans to retire soon. Failing to offer an employee a promotion just because you expect him to retire soon is against the law. Conversely, demonstrating by promotions and other rewards that you value the skills and contributions of older workers as much as those of younger ones will motivate employees to do their best and remain loyal to the employer.

If you are forced to downsize, do not auto- matically assume you should start with higher-paid employees. It is against the law to target older employees for involuntary layoffs or move them to a different depart- ment or division where they are more likely to be laid off. Besides, once you have ana- lyzed the situation, you may realize that older workers’ experience and knowledge of the business may actually make them more valuable. Use caution to ensure the downsizing does not target only your older workforce (i.e., higher-salaried workers may represent many of your older workers).

ADEA allows employers to request employ- ees who accept early retirement incentives to sign a waiver releasing all potential claims against the employer under ADEA. Employers who choose to do this should take care that they follow the seven requirements for requesting such a docu- ment (Look under “Waivers and Release Agreements” on page 13).

A variety of issues are raised by the fact that as employees age, it becomes more likely that they have one or more condi- tions (whether actual, perceived or a mat- ter of record) that qualify for a redesign of their workplace or render them disabled

Here are some additional examples of how employers can respond to the expectations of mature workers as well as prevent the occur- rence of age discrimination in hiring, on the job and in employee benefit policies.

Hiring

  • Train human resources personnel in inter- viewing techniques that elicit the skills and other qualifications that experienced work- ers bring to a job. Want ads and other recruitment materials should not specify an age requirement for the position. An interviewer may legally request the appli- cant’s birth date to facilitate a background check, but this should only be requested if actually needed.

  • Create an advisory committee of older workers to assess the recruitment process.

  • Offer competitive salary, retirement, and health care benefits. When an AARP survey asked experienced workers to describe their ideal job, the majority cited good retirement savings and health benefits as very important factors.

On the Job

  • Create opportunities for flexible schedules and other work arrangements—such as part-time positions, which are especially attractive to older workers. Seek input from employees or applicants on what types of schedules and working conditions they would like to have.

  • When offering training or other personal development opportunities to employees, ask for volunteers. Don’t assume that older workers lack the motivation or the ability to keep their skills current.

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