Age Discrimination: A Lose-Lose Proposition. What Recruiters Can Do

Age is like the forgotten step-child of protected classes in employment law.  Age discrimination doesn't get the attention that racial and sexual discrimination get, and winning an age discrimination case is difficult for employees. In fact, a recent New York Times article states that lawyers are reluctant to even take age discrimination cases since a 2009 Supreme Court decision tightened the standards for employees to prove bias.

But while it may not be a well-publicized topic, older workers do appear to be hitting a wall when it comes to finding work. The Society for Human Resource Management article "Invest in Older Workers" stated that older workers comprise a larger percentage of long-term unemployed.  They tend to have much longer durations of unemployment, and when they do get hired, they must endure deeper cuts in pay.  Citing stats from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the article stated that 70% of workers 55 and older who were laid off during the recession took pay cuts in their new jobs.

Is this a result of discrimination? Well, the article states that 64% of those ages 45-74 surveyed by AARP have seen or experienced age discrimination. And despite the challenges in proving age discrimination, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims have increased 30% since the recession. Additionally,, citing Peter Cappelli at the Wharton Business School, reported that 25% of employers admitted that they were hesitant to hire older workers. In fact, the majority of IT companies said they would not consider a candidate over age 40.

But this is a lose-lose proposition for both the workers AND the companies. By passing over those 55 and over, employers miss out on a tremendous asset to their companies.  Here are some reasons to consider older workers:

  1. Incredible work ethic. Members of the Baby Boomer generation are known for being extremely hardworking and dependable.  They tend to define themselves by their professional achievements. They are loyal and committed to the workplace.
  2. Knowledge Base. The years of experience and knowledge older workers possess are invaluable.  Savvy companies have realized this and often use them in consulting and training capacities.
  3. No Strings Attached. Unlike a worker in their 30's or early 40's, someone near retirement age is unlikely to be tied down by a young family. They are often more willing to travel and relocate. This makes them perfect contract candidates. In fact, many like to take contract assignments in different locations so they can explore new places while they work.
  4. Productivity. The myth is that those nearing retirement age are less productive because they are slower. But states that they waste less time than younger workers and take fewer sick days. Their engagement is also higher, which leads to higher performance.

If you or your clients are overlooking this group of experienced workers, you could be missing out on a wealth of star candidates.  This is particularly true if you are struggling to find quality contract candidates. Older workers make great contractors because, while they may need to supplement their retirement income or want to remain active in the workforce, they are not interested in the 9-5 rat race. They need and want flexibility.  Contracting allows them to take time off between assignments or work more flexible schedules. This is driving a trend known as retiree re-staffing, and some recruiting firms are even concentrating specifically on finding contract assignments for retirees as demand from candidates increases.

By accepting older candidates, you can turn into a lose-lose proposition into a win-win-win situation for you, the candidates, and your clients.

Related articles: 

6 Types of Contract Placements

40% of Contractors Are 50 and Over

How Recruiters Can Deal with Job Hopping Millennials

Debbie Fledderjohann is the President of Top Echelon Contracting, Inc.

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