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A Real Solution to Workplace Age Discrimination

No Easy Solution to Age Discrimination

MusingsIf you'd like to get an eye-opening perspective on age discrimination, read Chris Farrell's recent article on He discusses a Supreme Court case which essentially sided with R. J. Reynolds, a company that allegedly discriminated against a 49-year old highly qualified job applicant named Richard Villarreal. Despite the 50-year old Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which in theory protects those 40 years and older from age discrimination in the workplace, the Supreme Court let a lower court ruling stand; Farrell writes "The courts dismissed Villarreal’s suit saying the ADEA claim he brought only protected existing employees, not job applicants. The courts also agreed with Reynolds that Villarreal hadn’t 'diligently' pursued why he didn’t hear back about his application."

Farrell points out "The Supreme Court and many lower courts increasingly defer to employers on hiring and employment decisions when it comes to what the ADEA calls 'reasonable factors other than age.' (For example, employers can justify as a reasonable business decision laying off their most expensive workers who happen to have seniority and are mostly older.)"

So if there is no legal recourse when you believe you have been discriminated against because of your age, what can you do? Chris Farrell has some excellent suggestions, but all of them put the onus on Congress or the federal EEOC to take action.

Farrell makes an impassioned plea to government and industry to institute a kind of hiring known as "safe harbor," along with training programs for older workers: "The timing may be propitious for an experiment combining safe-harbor hiring and well-funded training programs for older workers. After eight years of steady economic growth and an unemployment rate at 4.4 percent, employers are currently looking for workers. Yet management too often seems blind to the opportunities available from recruiting older applicants with skills, knowledge and experience."

Sadly, there is no easy solution to age discrimination, which puts many Boomers at risk in the job market. Maybe this is one reason an increasing number of Boomers choose to work for themselves.

Read Farrell's thoughtful article here:


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