Compliance & Legal

How HR Should Handle Age Discrimination in the Workplace

When faced with age discrimination in the workplace, HR administrators need to proceed with caution. Here are four steps for avoiding costly litigation.

man explaining something to an elderly man

We live in a tumultuous time for the work environment. Acceptance is a fresh area of emphasis, but ageism in the workplace is alive and growing... often in spite of the best efforts of Human Resources to minimize such occurrences. When faced with an age discrimination complaint, HR administrators and office managers must proceed with the utmost caution and diligence. Your primary goal will be a swift resolution and to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation that could result in much more than a settlement. It could cost the company its reputation.

What Is Age Discrimination?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision, age discrimination comes into play when employers treat job applicants and/or employees differently or less favorably solely on account of their their age. There are many examples of age discrimination in the workplace, of which some may be obvious and easy to avoid, but others can often fly under the radar until there is a complaint and a problem on HR's plate. 

Age discrimination laws (such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967) are designed to protect applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination of this kind in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. Unfortunately, it is still a common occurance and can be a contributing factor in employee grievances when HR is not careful. 

Top Priorities For Eliminating Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Workplace age discrimination needs to be taken seriously by HR departments. Here are four tactics you can use to stay on top of this issue and prevent costly litigation. 

1. Have a clear and indisputable policy in place.

The Federal Age Discrimination Act protects individuals from being discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. It’s the law. Learn it. Promote it. And enforce it. Ensure that the age discrimination policy your organization sets, based on this legislation, is communicated throughout the office whether in corporate handbooks and/or posters in common areas. HR should be sure that corporate guidelines and policies around tolerance are crystal clear to all employees.

2. Ensure that there will be consequences...and these consequences are well known.

It’s not enough to just discuss the policy, there should be an action plan in place should an age discrimination compliant be brought to your attention. Whether corrective trainings are necessary or immediate termination for policy breech, your employees should be aware of the cost of their actions if found guilty of ageism. Without this, you run the risk of a wrongful termination suit or a counter complaint from the subsequent penalties including suspension, demotion, or additional instruction.

3. Deploy diversity training for all.

As HR policies evolve, your management team should be subject to professional development in the way of inclusion training and diversity situations in the workplace. However, it’s also important that direct reports be privy to exercises and workshops to grow as professionals and maintain a congruency among teams. This will reduce the risk of age discrimination complaints and HR issues.

4. Always take immediate action.

When faced with an age discrimination dispute, keep an open mind. Listen attentively. Gather evidence and conduct interviews. Document everything. Hire a third-party investigator if needed to maintain a non-bias environment and avoid legal ramifications. Once a judgment has been made, notify all parties swiftly and initiate the action plan. Every minute you delay you are one step closer to a court case, and possible irreparable damage to your business.

Keep Age Discrimination Cases Organized

LaborSoft is the number one partner for innovative HR case management. Our configurable, cloud-based technology makes it easy for you to document and archive all supporting materials for workplace age discrimination issues and grievances. LaborSoft saves you time and money with online features and capabilities that streamline investigations and minimize risk.

Contact us for a customized demonstration and learn how LaborSoft can help you improve communications, build a more collaborative, safe, and supportive workplace, and reduce the likelihood of costly age discrimination lawsuits.

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This blog was originally published on 4/19/2018 and was updated on 1/04/2024.

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