It’s generally not a good idea to refer to your older employees as “old coot” or “old goat” – it could cost you $26 million in an age discrimination suit.
This case is mainly notable in the size of the award. Age is one of the primary reasons that employees file discrimination claims – particularly since the tougher economy has prompted many companies to tighten their belts. When trimming payroll, many organizations tend to look to higher paid employees, many of whom are older – and that can be a problem. Courts have found that firing due to salary can be considered age discrimination. It’s important to ensure that policies do not create a disparate impact for a protected class of workers.
With the aging of the Baby Boomers generation and the trend toward deferred retirement, this is an issue that is not going to go away any time soon. Employers would do well to ensure their policies are up to par, that they enforce a culture with zero tolerance for discrimination, bullying and harassment, and that supervisors and employees alike are trained about discrimination and harassment.
Take our 10 question How Well Do You Know Harassment Quiz to see how you fare. Try it out on your employees.
EEOC: Age Discrimination
DOL: Age Discrimination
AARP: Age Discrimination: What Employers Need to Know (PDF)
When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. Our EAP also includes no-cost training in harassment and various compliance issues. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.