By Julie Bawden-Davis
In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ordered an Arizona school district to pay $138,000 in settlement fees after the commission discovered age discrimination occurring. Lawsuits like this are becoming more common, as the median age of the workforce is now 41.9 years old as of 2012 and will continue to increase.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects your faculty and staff 40 years of age or older from potential age bias at your school. It is the responsibility of your learning institution to ensure that employee rights are maintained when it comes to this law, or your school may find itself hit with a costly age discrimination lawsuit.
Rules for Protecting Employees from Age Discrimination
Safeguard your learning institution from age discrimination suits by abiding by the rules outlined in the ADEA.
They include the following:
- An employee can never be fired due to age.
- All employment ads or recruitment materials may never specify a preferred age.
- No age limits can be made for training programs.
- Employers are forbidden to retaliate against employees who file age discrimination suits.
- No policies can be made that result in penalizing older workers over younger employees.
- Employees cannot be given reduced benefits because of age. (This doesn’t apply to benefits that naturally change due to age, such as life insurance premiums.)
Steps to Protecting Your Educational Institution
What you do and don’t do when it comes to age discrimination has a definite impact on whether your school will be open to litigation.
Protect your educational institution by abiding by the following protocol:
Update your employee handbook. Include a statement in your employee handbook that clearly outlines that discrimination based on age and other factors such as race and sex is neither condoned nor acceptable at your school. Ensure that employees read and sign the handbook to indicate they understand their rights and the rights of others regarding discrimination.
Keep in mind that because of the increasing use of technology, ways to discriminate increase daily, so make sure that the handbook is a fluid document that is updated on a regular basis and reviewed by employees.
Display an Equal Opportunity poster. Post in a prominent location where all employees can see the United States Department of Labor "Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law" poster. This notice provides information regarding anti-discrimination law and employee rights, as well as procedures for filing complaints.
Provide company-wide anti-discrimination training. Require all employees to attend training that shares the rules regarding discrimination based on age and other factors, and gives employees clear instructions for what they should do if they suspect discrimination.
Hold specialized management training. Those in leadership roles, such as faculty chairs and administration, require additional more extensive training on the subject of discrimination. They should be trained to be on the lookout for overt and subtle signs of trouble among their staffs and advised as to the protocol for dealing with and mitigating potential problems.
The more informed an employee is about age discrimination, the better. Many claims occur because of misinterpretations and misunderstandings between employers and employees and among employees. Your learning institution can avoid lawsuits by being as transparent as possible.
The information provided in these materials is intended to be general and advisory in nature. It shall not be considered legal advice. The Hartford does not warrant that the implementation of any view or recommendation contained herein will: (i) result in the elimination of any unsafe conditions at your business locations or with respect to your business operations; or (ii) will be an appropriate legal or business practice. The Hartford assumes no responsibility for the control or correction of hazards or legal compliance with respect to your business practices, and the views and recommendations contained herein shall not constitute our undertaking, on your behalf or for the benefit of others, to determine or warrant that your business premises, locations or operations are safe or healthful, or are in compliance with any law, rule or regulation. Readers seeking to resolve specific safety, legal or business issues or concerns related to the information provided in these materials should consult their safety consultant, attorney or business advisors. All information and representations herein are as of 4/20/15.