veteran employees

New research and two recent settlements illustrate that age discrimination is still a huge issue for employers — and it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.  

The latest numbers: One out of every three British adults over the age of 50 say they’ve experienced age bias, according to a report published recently in the journal Age and Ageing. That number rose to 37% for people over the age of 65.

More results from the study:

  • Working people were 25% less likely to report age bias than retired people
  • Older retired men with less money and more education were most likely to report bias
  • Better-educated people may be more attuned to inequities and more likely to report discrimination, and
  • Nearly 20% of all participants said they were treated with less respect because of their age, while less than 5% said they’d experienced age-related harassment.

The info came from questionnaires filled out by more than 7,000 people living in England as part of a long-term study.

The research also noted the adverse effects that age discrimination can have on veteran employees, including:

  • stress
  • social withdrawal
  • reluctance to go to the doctor, and
  • depression.

And for those who question the relevance of a British study to what’s happening in the U.S., Reuters reports that “because this study lines up with results from the European Union and United States, the general findings about perceived discrimination probably apply to most countries,” though the links to social factors like wealth and education may not.

Fired after 16 years

Over on this side of the Atlantic, age bias is still making headlines for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed a handful of age-related lawsuits just before the end of the fiscal year September 30.

But even before that, the agency reported on two age discrimination settlements that amounted to nearly $400,000 price tags for the companies involved.

In the first case, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to pay a whopping $250,000 to settle an age bias lawsuit.

Terry Pierce, who was 53 years old and had worked as sales coach manager at AT&T’s Lee’s Summit, MO, facility for 16 years, said she was fired while the company kept on younger, lower-performing sales coach managers or allowed them to transfer. The EEOC took on her case, and the company settled.

In addition to the monetary settlement, the company will:

  • redistribute its anti-discrimination policy with a message from its EEO director reaffirming the company’s commitment to the policy
  • provide anti-discrimination training, and
  • report to the EEOC on complaints of age discrimination and terminations of persons over 40.

She was ‘too old and ugly’

In the second case, Kunbar Property Management (KPM), a property management company for several downtown commercial office buildings in Tulsa, OK, agreed to settle an age bias lawsuit for $140,000.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Toni Strength was one of KPM’s long-time veteran property managers who’d been with KPM and its predecessor property management companies since 1992.

KPM notified Strength, who was 53 at the time, that she was being terminated in October 2010 because her position was being eliminated.

The EEOC charged that Strength was in fact deliberately replaced with younger women, including placing a 23-year-old clerical employee in the property manager position, and the younger replacements were then assigned seven of the 10 buildings that Strength had managed.

The EEOC said these actions were taken because KPM’s former CEO wanted “younger and prettier” property managers to meet with potential tenants and entertain potential tenants after regular work hours, and characterized Strength as “too old and ugly.”

Strength went to the Equal Employment Oportunity Commission, which filed suit on her behalf. KPM opted to settle, and in addition to the monetary settlement, will:

  • update its anti-discrimination policies to recognize the importance of older employees in the workforce, and
  • furnish companywide training for all of its management personnel with hiring and firing authority.

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