The problem with many of the discrimination laws, particularly those that guard against age discrimination, are difficult to identify within a company or organization. When multi-tiered managers are in charge of hiring, and when decisions are based upon one person’s opinion, age discrimination in the workplace can go for years unchecked by higher-level management.
It should be a priority of all business owners to identify and prevent age discrimination in the workplace. Policies that govern this practice are not enough; if laws and policies are not enforced, they are meaningless.
The first step is to conduct a thorough investigation of your hiring practices. Talk with managers and HR representatives to ascertain their criteria for hiring. Ask questions based on the theory of age discrimination and find out if they are using age as a reason for rejecting an application.
Next, look at the culture of your current workforce. Is there a healthy and unbiased representation of employees? Do most or all employees in one department fall into a narrow age group? Have you hired people who are just out of college as well as those who are nearing retirement?
Although you do not have to prove to anyone that you have an employee of every age working in your workplace, you do need a representative sample from each age group. This will safeguard your company against claims of age discrimination, and will ensure a well-rounded workforce.
Examine your application, as well. Is one of the questions, “Date of Birth”? If it is, remove it, and replace it with “If Under Age 18: Date of Birth”, so that your managers and HR representatives won’t be tempted to discriminate based on age.
You should also sit in on interviews to make sure that managers or HR employees are asking the right questions. They should stay away from interview questions that might be considered age discrimination (or any other type of bias) and instead should focus on qualifications for the position at hand.
And finally, make sure that your current employees are placed in positions where age is not a factor. Allow younger employees to work with older, more seasoned employees. Encourage all employees to learn from one another and to share expertise. Make it clear to new hires, current employees and managers that age discrimination is not tolerated, and that you have strict guidelines dealing with this problem.
Age discrimination is a larger issue than most people realize, and ensuring that your company complies with the laws and policies regarding age discrimination should be a high priority.