As the ADEA Turns 50, the EEOC Offers Advice for Employers to Prevent Age Discrimination

By Ellen E. Hoeppner / Jul 16, 2018

In recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report on the state of the law and potential strategies employers may utilize to prevent age discrimination, such as including older workers in diversity and inclusion programs and being mindful of the age of members of hiring panels.

In its report, the EEOC determines the ADEA has eliminated overt age discrimination, but stereotypes and false assumptions about older workers remain, particularly regarding the diversity, education, and work ethic of the older generation.  According to a 2017 AARP study, 6 out of 10 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and 90% of those say it is common. 

The EEOC suggests that altering workplace practices can counter the unconscious bias and stereotyping practices that can run afoul of the ADEA.  The EEOC recommends the following strategies.          

  • Increasing the Age Diversity of the Workforce: While a growing number of organizations have enacted diversity and inclusion strategies, many fail to consider age as a category for inclusion.  Age diversity has been shown to improve organizational performance and increased productivity.
  • Recruiting and Hiring Strategies: Recruitment practices can avoid age bias by seeking workers of all ages. In addition, the EEOC suggests that employers consider implementing an age diverse panel when interviewing potential employees.  Experts cited by the EEOC recommend that a multi-generational panel provides not only a more holistic prospective when evaluating the applicant, but has the added benefit of marginalizing ageist assumptions and the potential of ADEA violations.
  • Retention Strategies: Research has shown that effective retention strategizes reduce long-term costs associated with turnover and are directly correlated to increased productivity.  The EEOC suggests providing career counseling and training and development opportunities for workers of all ages and stages of their career in order to achieve a heightened level of retention.

If you have any questions about the report, or how to implement the EEOC’s suggested strategies for age diversity and inclusion, please contact Ellen Hoeppner at ehoeppner@clarkhill.com or (313) 309-4256, or another member of Clark Hill’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.