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Topic-Tuesday: Ageism

Mary Ramirez Community Leader Oct 16, 2018

An implicit bias not often talked about is - ageism

Patricia G. Barnes, J.D., an attorney and nationally known expert on employment discrimination and workplace abuse shared her insight with SHRM. Check out her advice to companies and HR departments.

1. Use age-neutral language in job advertisements. Avoid using language such as "recent graduates" or "digital natives" in job postings. While it's not illegal per se to advertise for digital natives, such language could be used as evidence to show age discrimination. Anything you do that treats older workers less favorably than others creates legal risk. Instead, use terms such as "entry-level" or "senior-level" when describing job openings. And don't limit hiring strategies to college campuses; broaden your recruitment efforts.

2. Consider all applicants. Don't make assumptions about older workers, such as assuming they will retire soon. Many can't fall back on private pensions anymore and may be at your organization longer than younger employees. And it's quite possible an older worker would like to perform an entry-level position.

3. Do not use social media or search engines to find out applicants' ages.

4. Have an age-diverse panel that interviews and evaluates job candidates on the knowledge, skills and behaviors required for the job, and not on subjective factors that can lead to implicit bias.

5. Create or task a company committee or management team to discuss how the company is going to attract and retain older workers—such as the policies and benefits the organization should incorporate—and how the organization can use the experience and talents of its older workers.

6. Make sure your antiharassment policy covers ageism. Employers acknowledge racism and sexism, but ageism has been tolerated and ignored. Try conducting an audit of the ages of your employees, much as you would conduct audits of the race and gender of your workplace population.

7. You should not focus on age when you lay off employees. That could be infused with ageist perceptions—that the older workers are going to retire anyway, for example. If staff cuts are necessary, try to base them on objective considerations that don't lend themselves to perceptions of age discrimination.


What are your thoughts on ageism biases?

1 comment

Thanks for sharing all these tips Mary on the ageism bias. I have witnessed "ageism", relating to individuals nearing retirement, or individuals in senior positions when they are in their 20s/30s. The individuals making the comments don't seem to realize they are discriminating against our human rights act. I notice that individuals targeted in these situations often feel the need to work even harder to prove themselves to try to break these biases, which is harmful and can take a toll on the individuals mental health.


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