Age Discrimination and Ageism in An Economic Downturn

  1. EEOC-Employment Law
  2. Age Discrimination and Ageism in An Economic Downturn

In rapid succession, once-in-a-generation concerns — a worldwide pandemic, geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures, and financial challenges — have sapped the confidence of global CEOs. While it’s obvious that the economy is now the primary focus of business leaders, seasoned employees are equally as concerned as it relates to age discrimination and their employment. Employers are currently reducing their workforce and instituting hiring freezes in response to market pressures and predictions of a 2023 recession.

Older Workers and Job Displacement

A significant proportion of the US workforce consists of older employees. In 2020, approximately one-fourth of American employees were over 55, with an additional 20% on the verge of becoming in the older worker category. Automation, globalization, commerce, and climate change all contribute to older Americans’ employment loss. History has shown that when older employees are displaced, they are more likely to remain unemployed for longer. What’s more, if they find new work, they are likely to earn less than they did.

Low employer demand for older employees and age discrimination appears to be variables in these outcomes, putting older workers at high risk for long-term unemployment, dejection, abandoning the workforce, and involuntary retirement. For example, in a 2022 article by McKinsey & Company, about one-third of US job seekers aged 55 and older were unemployed for at least 27 weeks, compared to about 22% of younger job seekers.

Cutting Costs in An Economic Downturn

To keep their heads above water, employers attempt to decrease expenses in light of a possible recession. These cost-reduction strategies disproportionately affect older workers, who often earn a higher wage. In addition, employers may attempt to use the economic crisis as a reason for age discrimination by firing or not rehiring older workers.

During economic downturns, age discrimination tends to escalate. For example, EEOC statistics revealed a rise in age discrimination cases during and after the 2007-2009 recession.

Recession Layoffs

In the event of a layoff, you may suspect that your employer used the recession as a pretext to lay you off because of your age. The question is how courts reach this determination. The answer to this question focuses on how an employee might demonstrate that the employer’s stated justifications were a cover for age discrimination.

Each case will be evaluated based on its unique facts and merits when examining age discrimination and pretext accusations since there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. However, in the context of recession layoffs, there are indications that the employer may be targeting employees based on age rather than a real economic necessity to downsize the workforce. These warning signs include:

  • The corporation implements a modest layoff, including several more experienced, older, and higher-paid workers.
  • Younger, less experienced, and less-expensive personnel are retained and, in certain situations, take over the duties of older, departing staff.
  • Comments by decision-makers mention (or have referenced) the older employees’ experience, age, higher salary, proximity to retirement, etc.
  • The employer recruits new, younger employees within a reasonably short time after letting go of older workers.

Numerous businesses will be forced to furnish laid-off workers with detailed, written information on the laid-off employees, including their job titles and ages. This information is useful for determining if age discrimination may have influenced the termination decision. Action may be required to go further into the employer’s data on the laid-off employees to determine whether a correlation between the termination decision and their ages exists.

Contact a Workplace Discrimination Lawyer

The Crone Law Firm is passionate about helping victims of discrimination stop discriminatory behavior and recover damages for the injuries sustained. If you have been refused employment, passed over for a promotion, unjustly fired, or refused full payment of your earnings and believe it was because of discrimination, contact us to determine if your rights have been violated. We want to help you work it out. Call us at 901-737-7740 to see how we can help.

Let’s go get some justice! If you’ve been treated unfairly at work and are wondering if you should take action, contact us, and we’ll help you evaluate the merits of your case. Once you know, you can decide what you want to do.

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