Although it is impossible for employers to completely remove all risks of age discrimination occurring in the workplace, there are certain things which can be done in order to reduce the likelihood of that happening.
Here are three things that every employer can consider doing:
Provide Age Discrimination Training
The most important thing that any employer can do is to train its employees – management level employees with supervisory authority over others in particular – regarding the subject of age discrimination.
Many people are aware of the fact that the law prohibits certain types of discrimination in the workplace, such as race discrimination or gender discrimination. This is because these topics frequently appear on the evening news or social media. Although race and gender may be the most commonly known types of discrimination against which the law provides protection, they certainly are not the only ones. Surprisingly, there are many management level employees who are not even cognizant of the fact that age discrimination is prohibited by state and federal law.
For this reason, it is critically important for employers to regularly provide supervisory level employees with training regarding the basics of employment law in general, and discrimination law in particular.
Employ Mindful Reductions in Workforce Practices
When there is a need to reduce the workforce, most management level employees will look to cut those employees who are drawing the biggest salaries and/or wages. More often than not, the employees who are drawing the biggest salaries tend to be those with the most experience, which in turn tend to be those who are older because they have invested the time and hard work necessary to attain that experience and commensurate level of income.
Employers seeking to reduce their workforce should be mindful of the foregoing and approach reductions with an eye towards avoiding unintentional discrimination against the older members of the workforce. Even in the absence of intentional discrimination, employers can be liable for age discrimination on grade disparate impact theory. Therefore, discrimination must be avoided regardless of whether or not it is intentional.
Retain Experienced Employment Attorneys, and Consult Them Before Taking Action
As the old saying goes, “Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish.” Some employers will sometimes attempt to save a few dollars by not retaining experienced employment attorneys for advice before making any big moves, which may potentially create exposure and liability. It goes without saying that the expense of hiring an attorney to defend the lawsuit will almost always be exponentially larger than the expense of a 30-minute phone call with a lawyer. It is always easier to avoid problems, instead of trying to fix the problems after they arise. Prudent employers retain experienced employment lawyers to help guide their decisions. Those who are less prudent expose themselves to greater risk.