As the average life expectancy of human beings increases, so does the average work expectancy of your workforce. It’s no secret that the recession changed how we view our talent and development strategies. People are working later into their lives. Boomers and Traditionalists are working long after the average retirement age either in a new career, part time, or in their current career path. I’ve written a lot here about social media discrimination, but for a moment let’s talk about age discrimination in the workplace.
As a member of the Cusper Generation, I sit directly between the X and Y generation. It’s safe to say that I have a few years before I will become a member of the over 40 and protected workforce. While this topic doesn’t affect me personally, it will affect my family. My husband celebrates his 40th birthday in just a few months.
Age Discrimination Lawsuits: EEOC & Age Discrimination
Simply stated, our workforce is getting older. So it makes sense that the EEOC is seeing an increase in the number of age discrimination claims. Age discrimination lawsuits in 2009 cost employers $72.1 million. Investigating discrimination claims like age discrimination, are a current focus for the EEOC, who has increased their staff by over 440 workers since 2007. As the workforce ages, it’s logical that age discrimination claims would also increase. Age expectancy is also increasing in the United States. In fact, the DOL now predicts that life expectancy will increase from 76 in 1993 to 82.6 years in 2050.
What is Age Discrimination?
As the average age of a worker also increases, the idea of what constitutes age discrimination will have to also change. Meaning that since we are getting older, the age considered a protected class must also increase in number. Because without the change, the older workforce will no longer be considered the minority. The DOL also estimates that in 2035 the median age in the United States will be 39.1 an increase from 35.5 in 2000.
Until the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is amended, this will continue to be a growing issue for organizations across the U.S. The key to creating a productive, engaged, and happy workforce is through continued communication, dialogue, training, and growth and development programs for the many ages, skills, and experiences of your ever-changing workforce.
Age discrimination lawsuits will continue to increase. Clashes, challenges, and obstacles between your younger and older workforces will also continue. In the next 10-15 years, if the age of this protected class isn’t increased, nearly 40% of your workforce will be squarely placed in this protected category.
It’s a scary time to be in HR. This also means that the field of HR, isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
This article is part of the Conversation Culture Series. Through training, conversations, and honesty in the workplace, we can engage, motivate, and retain our linchpin talent within an organization. Click on the graphic below, to see the entire article collection.