It is no secret that more U.S. workers are electing to put off retirement and remain in the workforce longer. Given the current labor shortage (lowest unemployment rate in 18 years), this is great news for companies as retaining experienced workers decreases turnover cost and provides immeasurable value in other areas of corporate performance. However, there is a tendency among some companies to “get younger” since experienced workers are often the most highly compensated employees and the newer crop of workers are digital natives that tend to be more technologically fluent.

Given this context, it is unsurprising that age discrimination has become the hot-button workplace discrimination issue in the media (notwithstanding sexual harassment, of course). On June 26, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released a report titled The State of Older Workers and Age Discrimination 50 Years After the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. A few of the key takeaways:

  1. Statistics suggest age discrimination is pretty common in today’s workforce. 90% say it is somewhat or very common, and more than 60% of workers 45 and older admitted to witnessing or experiencing age discrimination.
  2. Certain groups are particularly vulnerable – women, minorities and tech workers. In the technology industry, workers are sensitive to the fact that they may be replaced by younger workers – more than 40% of older tech workers are worried about losing their job because they fear age is a liability to their career.
  3. Older workers that lose jobs have much more difficulty finding a new job. This is important because if a worker remains out of work, they may be more likely to institute litigation against their former employer for discrimination.

South Carolina employers are advised to think critically when making decisions about your more experienced workers. Perhaps it is time for your organization to rethink outdated company policies about when a worker should retire, and rethink traditional “succession planning” measures that often disadvantage experienced workers. As more millennials enter the workforce, now is the time to think about how you onboard and train employees regarding stereotypes of the older generation.