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50 years after passage of ADEA age discrimination is still a persistent problem

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) turned 50 years old this month.  Congress enacted the ADEA, 50 years ago, to address the following stated problems:

(1) in the face of rising productivity and affluence, older workers find themselves disadvantaged in their efforts to retain employment, and especially to regain employment when displaced from jobs;

(2) the setting of arbitrary age limits regardless of potential for job performance has become a common practice, and certain otherwise desirable practices may work to the disadvantage of older persons;

(3) the incidence of unemployment, especially long-term unemployment with resultant deterioration of skill, morale, and employer acceptability is, relative to the younger ages, high among older workers; their numbers are great and growing; and their employment problems grave;

(4) the existence in industries affecting commerce, of arbitrary discrimination in employment because of age, burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce.

As you read through these problems it is amazing how many of them are still widespread and persistent.  Unfair stereotypes about older workers, such as that they are technophobic or inflexible, continue to hamper their ability to obtain and retain employment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting earlier this month to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ADEA and, at the same time, focus on the work that remains to eradicate age discrimination.  At that meeting experts on age discrimination testified that “nearly two-thirds of workers age 55-64 report their age as a barrier to getting a job.”  They further explained how damaging age discrimination is on the U.S. economy.  According to one of the experts, “if more older workers stayed in the workforce, it would significantly reduce the skilled worker shortage in the U.S.”  Another expert testified about how organizations’ reliance on ageist “stereotypes can also prevent organizations from realizing the wealth of positive assets, such as wisdom, experience, and reliability that older workers can bring to the table.”

The problem of age discrimination is especially acute in Maine.  According to recent studies, by some measures Maine has the oldest population of any state in the country.  Thus, age discrimination has the potential to hurt the Maine workforce more than the workforces of other states.  The Maine Employee Rights Group has decades of experience combating the effects of age discrimination.  If you believe you have experienced age discrimination, contact us to learn more about your rights.

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