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In the United States, the age discrimination in the workplace is prohibited according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1974), but the forms of “hidden” discrimination can be observed about the treatment of “both the young and the old” (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p. 109). In the organization, age discrimination prevents managers from gaining the benefits associated with diversity. In many cases, employers choose to hire middle-aged workers to avoid challenges associated with the retention of the diverse workforce. The age or generational discrimination can be presented in the workplace in many forms, including the lack of opportunities for recruitment and promotion, differences in compensations, and unfair performance appraisals.
Discrimination of Young Employees
While speaking about the age discrimination in the organization, people are inclined to think about discriminating older employees. However, the reality is different. According to Harvey and Allard (2015), young employees “experience age discrimination when their ideas are too easily dismissed or they are not treated with respect by older co-workers” (p. 108). In their turn, older employees are “stereotyped as being too rigid and not open to change or not being able to grasp the newest forms of technology” (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p. 108). The researchers of Princeton University found the discrimination in “hiring young minority males” and providing them with “low wage jobs” because of their age in addition to race (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p. 73). Thus, the age diversity is rarely supported in organizations.
Discrimination of Older Employees
The aging workforce is often regarded as a challenge by employers, and AARP, Inc. conducted a series of studies to examine the problem of the age diversity in the U.S. companies. Even though “81% of workers, age 55+,” are highly “motivated and engaged,” about 65% of them have fired annually because of performance appraisal results (Hewitt, 2015, p. 18). These employees are often described as less competent in using technologies or participating in projects.
Also, older workers can be retired according to specific retirement plans developed in the organization. In the Sidley Austin Brown & Wood v. EEOC case, the company developed the retirement plan ignoring the principles of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and fired partners “based on their age” (Harvey & Allard, 2015, p.278). Nevertheless, the number of older workers promoted in organizations tends to grow.
Segregation in Organizations
Thus, the situation opposite to the problem of older workers’ discrimination is the segregation in organizations. Harvey and Allard (2015) state that older employees “tend to be in upper and upper-middle management,” and younger employees are “in lower to more central levels” (p. 112). The ideal situation, in this case, is when different generations work at various levels, and the management supports and promotes such diversity.
However, focusing on the top management positions and excluding the situation of recruitment, it is possible to state that young employees are discriminated in terms of promotion. According to the data of AARP, Inc., in 2022, it is possible to expect seven workers aged 50 and over “for every 10 workers, ages 25 to 49” (Hewitt, 2015, p. 9). From this point, age discrimination can be viewed as a process that influences the aspect of diversity in two ways, affecting both older and younger workers.
Concluding remarks: Age Discrimination and Diversity
To address the issue of age discrimination in the workplace, it is necessary to increase the awareness of employers regarding benefits that are associated with hiring diverse workers. The knowledge and experience that different generations of employees can bring to the organization are various. Therefore, it is possible to expect benefits while supporting the principles of age diversity in the organization. Generations have different attitudes to their work, and their contribution is unique; therefore, strict regulations to prevent age discrimination are required.
Harvey, C. P., & Allard, M. (2015). Understanding and managing diversity. New York, NY: Pearson.
Hewitt, A. (2015). A business case for workers age 50+: A look at the value of experience. Web.