Term Paper: Age Discrimination the Face of American Workforce

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Age Discrimination

The face of American workforce is undergoing a rapid transformation-it is no longer dominated by whites or males or composed of people under 40. The scene is changing on the workforce structure front and that is what calls for changes in other areas of organizations as well. American corporate world needs to wake up to the changes that have been observed by many studies and researches. These changes must be adapted to before they create massive problems for the corporate world in the United States. With people from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds with different age groups entering the workforce, corporate world needs to make adequate changes in its various policies to embrace the changing face of the workforce and to be able to create a friendlier, more flexible organizational culture. In a company where these changes are not, easily accepted, discriminatory practices exist which give rise to the issue of employment discrimination whereby certain disadvantaged groups become victims of biased organizational policies. In this paper, we shall focus on the changing characteristics of American workforce, find out what employment discrimination is and discuss the changes that Human resources mangers need to be aware of and adapt to in order to successfully manage a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural workforce.

According to the survey and research conducted by Occupational Handbook, a very visible change would be noticed in the American workforce by the end of year 2005. The statistics revealed by the research are given below which indicate that whites and males would no longer be the most dominant group in American workforce in next few years.

Ronald R. Sims and John G. Veres (1995) reveal the findings of researches conducted by Occupational Outlook Handbook (U.S. Department of Labor, 1992-93 edition), and Workforce 2000 in his book, 'Human Resource Management and the Americans with Disabilities Act':

1. White males have historically been the largest component of the labor force. Their percentages have been dropping and will continue to drop from 79% in 1990 to 73% by 2005.

2. Women will continue to join the labor force in growing numbers. By the year 2005, women will make up approximately 47% of the labor force.

3. Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and other racial groups will account for approximately 35% of new entrants into the labor force between 1990 and 2005.

4. The average age of workforce participants will increase from 36.6 years in 1990 to 40.6 years by 2005. The percentages of workers between the ages of 45 and 54 will account for 24% of the labor force by the year 2005, up from 16% in 1990.

5. It is estimated that the population will increase by 0.75% a year with employment opportunities increasing by 1.3% a year resulting in fewer available employees.

6. The emphasis on education will continue. It is predicted that well over 50% of new jobs created during the 1990s will require more than a high school diploma. (Page 153)

In other words, it is clear that American workforce is turning into a more diverse element, which is likely to revolutionize the way organizations work and implement policies. However, this diversity of workforce creates alarming potential for employment discrimination. Discrimination not only affects the organization that refuses to embrace change and move with it, but also seriously hurts the individual who becomes its victim. Employment discrimination, it is believed, adversely affects the blacks, minorities and women but it has also been discovered that discrimination affects men and women almost equally though the causes may vary. For example while women face more employment discrimination due to their gender, men may counter the same problem due to disability or disease. However, in some studies, it was also found the gender might be a cause of discrimination for men too especially in the cases where immediate supervisors were females. This brings us to the question, what exactly is employment discrimination and which sections of the society are most likely to become its victims.

TITLE VII of CIVIL RIGHTS ACT of 1964

The most important legislation in connection with Employment discrimination is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII clearly states that employers cannot discriminate of sex, color or race and it also provides that:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer: (a) to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."

This legislation provides protection against employment discrimination of any kind. As long as a person is able and willing to work, he/she cannot be discriminated against provided their skills match the job for which they have applied. Discrimination exists in various forms and each form is discussed below for clearer understanding of the issue.

Bases of Charges & Discriminatory Actions (in Percents)

Men

Women

Race

Disability

Age

Retaliation

Sex

National Origin

Religion

Table 1- derived from Wendt 1993 research

Age discrimination

Employers often discrimination because of the age factor, which makes certain competent employees, go out of work. Older or senior remembers of the workforce are not easily absorbed in the organization or they are given premature retirement as their age is seen as an impediment to productivity and growth. For example according to one study, (Wendt, al, 1993) age discrimination could affect employees even with long periods of service within that organization. While new senior employees are often fired for no reason at all, some old employees also become victim of age prejudice. For example one woman who had been working with the origination for 44 years was discharged from her position as the store clerk without prior notice. Similarly a male purchasing manager who had been in serve for 42 years said this upon his termination: "In the past, reductions in force followed seniority. I had the most seniority in the company. My younger, subordinate employees in Purchasing were retained. Of the ten employees cut, all were over 40." (Wendt, 1993)

Max's Case

Max feels that he has been discriminated against because he was over the age of 50 and that he had written a positive recommendation letter for Pete who was to be fired. These can both be wild assumptions but they could also be very true and Max may be able to prove that he has been discriminated against.

However, how to prove it? Does he need to show that he is over the age of 50 and that someone younger has been hired to replace him? Well not really.

In this regard, the most important piece of legislation is Age Discrimination under Employment Act of 1976 popularly known as ADEA. The legislation offers protection to those aged 40 and above and makes it clear that in such cases, a person hired outside the protected class, makes the case go in favor the plaintiff. In other words, if a person younger than the victim was hired that may not be enough, it is more important to prove that the younger person fell outside the protected class of 40 and above.

According to the law, what a person needs to prove is his performance over the past few years or during his time with the company. Since Max has never received any negative reviews, this is more than enough for him to prove that he has been terminated on false charges. Why doesn't he need to show that he is a certain age and someone younger was hired? This question has been adequately answered by DiCeSare (2002) in his article "Age Discrimination." In the article, it is clearly stated that Supreme Court has decided to remove the condition of showing age gap to prove age discrimination but what is more important is to show that the person who replaced the victim was outside the protected age group.

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court has decided that an employee does not have to show that he or she was replaced by someone younger than 40 to bring suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967....Ruling in O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp...the High Court declared that discrimination is illegal even when all the employees are members of the protected age group. The recent decision in this case supported the position taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission."

In other words, if you feel that you have been discriminated against, all that needs to be proven is that other charges of negligence or bad performance were wrong and that the person who replaced him was outside the protected class under ADEA. What is essentially required is your quarterly performance reports or similar appraisals to prove that work had been praised and found satisfactory. This rule makes it very easy for Max to prove his point and to support his claim that he has been a victim of discrimination. Justice Scalia writes that ADEA "does not ban discrimination against employees because they are aged… [END OF PREVIEW]

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