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Older workers still suffer discrimination despite law updates

If you are an older Californian who is looking for work, you might simply be out of luck. That is the message that is being promoted after the release of a recent study showing that laws do little to protect workers from the ravages of age discrimination. State mandates are reportedly quite impotent against the tide of younger workers that is sweeping through industry, often leaving older employees behind. Older workers tend to suffer longer terms of unemployment, even though federal legislation has been passed to prevent discriminatory hiring.

The study, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, shows that older workers are actually suffering more employment woes in states with the strongest anti-discrimination laws. Although the practice is illegal, it appears that employers are generally flouting the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, designed to protect older workers from discriminatory hiring. As a consequence, a growing population of older workers are simply giving up their job search.

Experts say that violations of the age discrimination mandates may have actually been sparked by the Great Recession. Prior to that economic downturn, discrimination statutes had been generally accepted by industry, and companies appeared to be complying with the mandates. However, it appears that employers used the recession as an excuse to unload some of their older workers who were nearing retirement. Uncertain financial conditions may also have caused older workers to suffer longer periods of joblessness.

Employment law cannot be tossed aside simply because it is not convenient for employers. These companies need to be held accountable for their intentional discrimination against older workers. Policymakers are suggesting changes that could give the law more teeth, but older workers must stand up against this discrimination in the interim by holding companies responsible through the civil court system.

Source: The Inquirer, "No help for older unemployed" Lucia Mutikani, Reuters, May. 11, 2014

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