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Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Nearly a third of Massachusetts residents report that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination, a new AARP survey finds.

According to Debbie Chalfie, AARP expert on age discrimination, older workers are concerned about keeping their jobs, and hiring bias has been a top issue during the economic slump. “Everyone has taken it on the chin during this recession, but older workers are the ones who don’t have the time to recover if they’ve lost their jobs, or used up their savings.”

Though national unemployment rates have declined somewhat since 2009, it still remains high, particularly for workers age 50 and over. In fact, the average length of unemployment between jobs for older workers is well over one year – an all-time high. “Age discrimination is continuing to be a barrier,” said Chalfie. “It is critical that those who need or want to work longer are able to do so.”

Stress Skills, Not Dates

It’s very difficult to show that you weren’t hired because of your age, though 74 percent of those recently polled in Massachusetts said they believe “age would be an obstacle to finding work.” The best protection against age discrimination is information. What can you do to protect yourself if you think you’ve been passed by? “Limit the relevance of age in your job application,” advised Chalfie. “Stress skills, not dates.”

  • Revise your resume to reflect your accomplishments – not a chronological list of education and employment.
  • Stay abreast of developments in your field. Augment your skills with trainings, seminars and keep in the know by following industry leaders online.
  • Embrace social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other networks can be great tools for networking, gaining information and staying up-to-date.
  • Research, research, research. Now more than ever, it is imperative you learn as much as you can about a prospective employer.

For more tips and information, visit the AARP Work portal.

On Capitol Hill

A new age discrimination bill is gaining traction, with widespread support from AARP members in the Bay State and nationwide. A recent poll of registered voters age 50 and older found that 76 percent favor passage of the bipartisan "Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act" (POWADA).

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Chuck Grassley and Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Patrick Leahy, is designed to overturn a divided (5-4) U.S. Supreme Court decision (Gross v. FBL Financial Services) that made it much more difficult for older workers to prove claims of illegal bias based on age.

Want to be part of the fight against age discrimination?

Learn more about the Gross decision and the Protecting Older Workers Act,, then contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and urge them to help fight age discrimination by supporting the “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.”

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