Is there Really an Increased Amount of Age-Based Bias in the Workplace?

Age-discrimination claims are on the rise.  The number of age-based charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC increased by 29% in 2008, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, More Workers Cite Age Bias After Layoffs. The rise is larger than the overall increase in charge filings, which the EEOC reported as 15% over 2007.  This news won’t come as much of a surprise to most employment law attorneys, though.  We’ve seen a steep increase in charge filings, on the state and federal levels, since the summer of 2008, with a seemingly record-high numbers of charge filed in the Delaware Department of Labor during the months of September and October.  But why have age claims, in particular, been the type subject to the sharpest increase?

For one, there are more older workers in the workforce today than ever before.  We’re living longer.  And we Traditionalists and Silents have resisted retirement, remaining active members of the workforce.  Statistically, if there are more people over 40, then it follows that there will be more age claims.

Layoffs are another contributing factor. When layoffs happen, employees with the highest salaries are common targets.  And salary level is often commensurate with years of service.  And, as you may have guessed by now, years of service with a particular employer is often commensurate with years of total employment.

So if these factors are by-products of modern reality, can there really be more age bias in the workplace?  As this unprecedented number of claimants take their claims through the charge process and are released from the administrative process, it will only be a matter of time until we know whether the same staggering increases will be seen in the courts around the country.

Delaware Employers,

Don’t miss an opportunity to learn up-to-the-minute statistics on the current status of charges in the State of Delaware.  We’re honored to have Julie Klein Cutler, Administrator for the Delaware Department of Labor’s Office of Anti-Discrimination as a Keynote Speaker at Young Conaway’s 2009 Annual Employment Law SeminarRegistration for this year’s employment law seminar is open for only one more week.  If you haven’t signed up already, you can register now to participate in this must-attend educational event.  We hope to see you there!