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Why There Are Laws Prohibiting Age Discrimination

Age stereotyping—attributing characteristics to people based on their age—remains a seri- ous problem in our society generally and in the workplace in particular. Stereotyping surfaces in many different ways, from a super- visor’s blunt suggestion that “now that you’re 60, you should think about retiring,” to the more subtle, unspoken assumption that mature workers are less competent or less energetic than their younger colleagues.

Employers who utilize such stereotypes to make decisions about individual employees, or in official policies on hiring, firing, job assignments, and employee benefits, are violating the ADEA.

Although the ADEA became federal law back in 1967, employees and older jobseekers still view age discrimination as a problem. Each year within the decade from 1994 to 2004, 15,000 to 20,000 age discrimination charges were filed with the federal government. And in response to a 2004 AARP survey, more than two-thirds of workers age 45 or older—in the prime of their working years—said they have concerns that “age discrimination remains a major barrier to their advancement and well- being in the workplace.”

Age discrimination is harmful not only to the individuals who experience it. In 2004 alone, the cost of negotiated settlements of federal age discrimination complaints totaled $69 million.

Furthermore, age discrimination overlooks the talent, skills, and experience that mature workers possess, which American business needs if it is to remain vital and competitive in this global economy.


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