Executives need to be aware of shifts in the workplace and the labor pool that makes age discrimination claims an important management issue.

“Shifts in demographic trends and judicial reasoning have combined to set the stage for a rapid rise in the risks posed by unsuccessful job candidates who fall within the protected class of workers age 40 and older under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,” states Fay Hansen, a contributing editor for Workforce Management magazine.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that percent of the population that falls within the age group of 45 to 84, will continue to rise. This means that executives need to be aware of a shift in the labor pool and the available talent for key management positions.

“The surge of older workers remaining in or re-entering the work force underscores the importance of training recruiters and hiring managers to avoid age discrimination charges,” Hansen advises.

“Employers need to start thinking about the age spread in various positions and make sure they pay the same attention to age as they do to race and gender in the hiring process,” recommends Connie Bertram, partner in Winston & Strawn’s Washington office.

To avoid potential problems in hiring, experts recommend the following:
  • Increase efforts to train recruits and managers to avoid age discrimination issues in the hiring process
  • Hiring practices must be broadening to include older-aged applicants, not just in ways to attract only younger candidates (for example, posting only on job boards frequented by younger applicants)
  • Avoid referring to candidates age or physical and mental abilities during the hiring process (asking is the applicant has the energy for long hours)
  • Don’t try to hide behind the “overqualified” defense. Rather offer the job at the salary allotted to be best qualified candidate
  • Don’t interview people you will never hire. Focus on screening and reviewing applications before bringing in candidates
  • Use a diverse group of decision-makers for the recruiting and hiring process
  • Maintain a diverse work force.
  • If unsuccessful candidates ask questions after they have been rejected, consult with human resources and counsel before replying