The tough economy seems to have hit older workers particularly hard, and age discrimination claims are rising as a result.

According to an article, age discrimination claims have hit record levels. Citing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics, the article states that claims have risen steadily from 16,000 in 2006 to 23,000 in 2010.

This is not surprising considering the unemployment statistics on older workers. Those 55 and over are unemployed for an average length of 52.4 weeks. The average is just 37.4 weeks for younger workers, according to AARP employment data cited in the article.  Also, more than half of the unemployed older workers are considered "long-term unemployed," meaning that they have been out of work at least 27 weeks.

Older workers are often the first to go in layoffs because they are usually the highest paid workers.  They are also often overlooked for new jobs because employers (usually incorrectly) assume that older workers are less productive, are hard to train, are frequently absent, and invite higher health insurance costs.  

On the flip side, more savvy companies realize that older workers come with a wealth of knowledge and often strong work ethics.  They are tapping into that knowledge base through a trend we previously reported on called retiree re-staffing where companies retain or bring in older workers on consulting or contract assignments.  These arrangements are good for the workers, too, many who are not able or not willing to retire completely but want a more flexible work arrangement than traditional full-time employment provides.

Older workers can find companies that will value the knowledge and experience they have to offer, but they may need to think outside the traditional work model they are used to. You can help them do that by providing contract opportunities where they can continue to contribute their expertise.

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

Views: 236

Comment by Tim Spagnola on October 17, 2011 at 10:44am

As a recruiter that deals with age discrimination day in and day out (largely due to ability of providing malpractice coverage) this is a real issue. Are other recruiters experiencing this within their sectors? and/or encountering for the first time? Thanks Debbie for sharing this info with the RBC.

Comment by Valentino Martinez on October 17, 2011 at 12:57pm

Timely post, Debbie--


Age discrimination rising can only be surprising to people in or just coming out of a Chryogenic Chamber.

With the rising age discrimination claims begs the question, "Now what?"  The EEOC and OFCCP will now have to weigh-in on corrective actions.  It's unfortunate that with those actions now older workers, who have actually proven themselves by performance over many years, will now be looked on as the new "affirmative action" beneficiaries as minorities and women have been for so many years.  However, I do not see this as a problem for employers who simply value sustained quality performance regardless of who delivers it.


@Tim—as recruiters it seems to me—we recommend top talent regardless of age, sex, etc.  If our recommended candidates are not hired the onus is on the employer—if they’re ever challenged.


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