Career & Lifestyle Magazine: Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Career & Lifestyle Magazine | Winter/Spring 2018

By Betsy Rader

Age discrimination is real and invidious, particularly for women. I see this discrimination regularly in my employment law practice. Our phone rings daily with calls from men and women over 50 who have been abruptly terminated from long-term jobs, despite good performance reviews. But while men may find other (albeit lower-paid) jobs, women typically experience extended or permanent unemployment despite desperate job searches.

A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research demonstrates that my anecdotal observations about older women are grounded in hard facts. The study was based upon callback rates from over 40,000 job applications in various occupations. For instance, in the profession of administrative work most dominated by women, the callback rate was a startling 29% lower for middle-aged women (ages 49–51), and 47% lower for older female applicants (ages 64–66) than for younger women.

Public policy should encourage people to work as long as they want: continued employment means less dependence on government-funded social programs, greater income, and more tax revenues. But the harsh reality is that employees often do not have the choice to work as long as they want or need to work — especially women.

All of us will become old eventually, and so everyone has a very personal stake in ensuring that older workers are protected from illegal discrimination. Unfortunately, most people pay no attention to these types of laws until the day they are told to clean out their desks in 15 minutes. Rights without effective remedies are meaningless, and so the age discrimination laws should provide employees with a reasonable statute of limitations for bringing claims, and damages in amounts that not only make employees whole and pay their attorneys’ fees, but also deter employers from violating the law in the future. Age discrimination should not be permitted to play any role in a decision to demote or terminate an employee. To lose a job in her 50s or 60s is often a tragedy from which a person will never recover. Strong, enforceable laws will help to prevent this from happening illegally to women and men.

Read more starting on page 32 of Career & Lifestyle Magazine’s Winter/Spring 2018 issue