Age discrimination is a real problem in the workplace, affecting more than half of the American workforce. To address this issue, The Equal Opportunity Commission [EEOC] enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act [ADEA]. The law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including, hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other condition of employment. It also deems harassment of a person because of their age unlawful. In Part 1, we detailed a few examples of ageism so that you can recognize the bias…but how do you stop it from occurring in the first place?
As with most problems, prevention is key. Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent ageism from happening in your office:
- Start with the hiring process. First make sure your application forms allow people to set unrestrained dates for their education and work experience. Another option is to disregard setting dates at all and allow a simple “yes” or “no” answer to questions about education and years of experience. Always remember to base hiring on merit, qualifications, and skills, not age.
- Offer continuous training and employee enrichment opportunities for all levels of employees. Regularly training your employees on anti-discrimination practices can only help avoid those problems. Giving all your employees the chance to enhance their knowledge or skills will make them better employees who feel valued at their job.
- Actively promote a work-life balance. Flexible work schedules or compensatory time benefits employees of all age groups, whether they are baby boomers, Gen Xers, or millennials.
- Encourage employees to socialize. Promoting positive employee relations through casual social activities, like luncheons, leads to a friendlier and more enjoyable work environment.
- Create a mentorship program. Ask more experience workers to mentor newer employees and share trade secrets and job-specific knowledge. This will also contribute to a cohesive, collaborative, and friendly work atmosphere.
These are just a few suggestions for preventing age bias before it happens. However, you should still fully address age discrimination claims when they do arise. Also, make sure to display the “EEO is the Law” poster and include an anti-discrimination policy and investigation procedure in your employee handbook or manual.
Age discrimination can take many forms in the workplace. It is important to understand and recognize the various forms of discrimination because it is against the law. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act [ADEA] prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from treating people who are age 40 or older unfairly. However, in a study done by the AARP, approximately 64 percent of workers ages 45-74 say they have seen or experienced age bias in the workplace. This is particularly relevant since nearly 55 percent of today’s employed labor force is 40 or older. In other words, a majority of the workforce feels they have received unlawful treatment…so why does it persist?
One of the reasons this discrimination continues to occur may be because employers fail to recognize the signs of ageism in their office. Here a few examples:
- One employee frequently makes remarks about another employee’s age. Although they may appear to be joking around or in good humor, the employee on the receiving end could still feel harassed.
- An employer or manager decides to only hire employees with less than 15 years of experience within the industry. This type of policy favors younger workers and excludes someone with more years of experience even though they may be equally qualified and skilled and fit the job description.
- A company reduces an employee’s benefits as they age despite the fact the expense of that benefit does not increase with age. This type of reduction targets a specific group of people. In this example, if the company needs to cut down on the cost of benefits, they should adjust their entire employee benefits program, not the benefit of a certain group.
- A business lays off a group of workers based on age or seniority without providing compensation or performance based evidence for dismissal. This type of move has an adverse effect on older workers especially when they are let go, while younger workers are not.
Keep in mind that the main goal of the ADEA is to stop employers from having policies that have a disproportionate impact on older workers versus younger workers. Recognizing unfair treatment in the office is only the first step to solving the problem. Check Part 2 to learn our suggestions for preventing age discrimination and addressing it when it does occur in the workplace.
This month’s success story is an example of how Organizational Architecture assisted its client with an executive level recruiting challenge.
The Cuyahoga County Public Library offers the very best in public library service in the nation. The library is focused on being the center of community life and is dedicated to creating an environment where reading, lifelong learning, and civic engagement thrive.
Recently, their Human Resources Director retired. Since we had worked with the Library before and knew the organization well, they asked us to assist them with the sourcing, screening, and selection process for their new HR leader.
Before we even started to engage with the talent market for this role, we had discussions with the Library leadership team about the role and its responsibilities. We discussed the unique role of HR in public sector employers and the critical need for a good understanding of labor relations.
Sari Feldman, Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library said:
Organizational Architecture facilitated an incredibly positive recruitment experience for CCPL. They demonstrate a thoughtful and organized approach to uncover the unique needs of the organization and the role, and then to find the right people.
They asked strong questions and clearly understood our needs. Additionally, they kept us apprised throughout the process, and within a short period of time provided us with an outstanding slate of candidates to meet. They helped us consider the candidates’ strengths and how they would complement our leadership team, lead our HR function, and support our employees. They provided quality guidance and support throughout the process.
The candidate we selected brings all the things we were looking for and more…we could not be more pleased with our experience working with Organizational Architecture.
Spending time at the front end of the search to fully understand the role and the organization is critical. Identifying these screening criteria helped make our recruitment fast, efficient, and effective.
As mentioned in Part 1, it may be necessary to seek background information on employees. However, if you decide to do this you need to comply with the rules set and enforced by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and Federal Trade Commission. There are many laws for how background information can be obtained and used in employment decisions. Some of the regulations and guidelines you need to know if your business background checks employees are:
- Public employers are not allowed to ask about felony charges on an employment application or during the initial screening process. However, they can ask for this information and run background checks after making a preliminary employment offer.
- Employers need to get the applicant’s or employee’s written permission to perform the background check.
- Employers should also tell the applicant or employee how the information will affect his or her employment.
- Treat everyone equally. It is against the law to only check the background of applicants and employees when that decision is based on a person’s race, national origin, color, sex, religion, disability, genetic information [including family medical history], or age.
Finally, make sure to apply the same standards to everyone and take special care when basing employment decisions on background information. Having a policy in place for the use of background information is considered the best practice and will only help employers be prepared.
A recurring conversation we have with many of our clients involves whether they should run background checks on their current and potential employees. Often this turns into a discussion about what are the best practices, guidelines, and rationale behind seeking background information on employees. A few common reasons we’ve found for why employers run background checks are:
- To ensure a theft free workplace. Especially in the retail industry where 42.9 percent of retail lost in the U.S. was attributed to fraud or theft from employees.
- To reduce legal liability for negligent hiring.
- To keep a safe work environment and minimize potential threats for employees.
Given these reasons, it seems like running background checks should be a no-brainer. However, we suggest that employers keep in mind the cost of background screening every employee. It may not always be necessary or make good business sense to spend the money on numerous background checks. For example, employers with high employee turnover rates might want to consider only paying for background checks on management or high-level staff.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of background checks. Make sure to look for the most relevant information when background searching employees. For instance, if you mostly employ CDL drivers, it is probably more cost-effective to check their driving record than their credit.
The most common types of background checks include:
- Criminal check
- Credit check
- Reference check
- Drug screening check
- Driving record check
Finally, every employer should have a policy in place for their background screening procedure and this policy should be made readily available to employees. Check out Part 2 to learn basic laws and guidelines you need to follow if you decide to seek background information on your employees.
Organizational Architecture is pleased to be part of a recent newsletter published by the Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute. Our article Finding the Right People – Strategies for Recruitment was featured in the newsletter and can also be found on their website.
The Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute is an educational membership organization of advisors and business leaders working to support the success of family-owned and closely-held businesses, raise the standards of family business advising, and provide continuity in service across our network.
We’re proud to be part of their network of advisors and grateful for the opportunity to assist family-owned businesses with their workforce strategy challenges.
This month’s success story is an example of how Organizational Architecture assisted its client, Shaffer Capital, with a recruiting challenge.
Shaffer Capital was in search of a new Client Service Associate. Shaffer Capital is a financial planning firm located in Westerville, OH. They help their clients plan for retirement and achieve financial success through informed investments and risk management solutions.
Matt Shaffer, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Shaffer Capital, said:
“We asked Organizational Architecture to help us fill the position because of our positive experience with them in the past. We knew they would listen to our unique needs and work with us to find someone who could be successful in our business. Organizational Architecture worked closely with us to think about the responsibilities of the job and the experience needed to perform those duties effectively.
The candidates they screened for us had the characteristics we were looking for, which made the selection process much easier. They presented to us four qualified candidates who brought unique talents and styles which gave us options when making our selection decision. Not only did we find a great new team member, but we also connected with candidates who may have a future spot with us”.
As mentioned in Part 1, we spent time doing a bit of work on the front end of the search outlining the necessary competencies for the job. Developing and identifying these screening criteria helped make our recruitment fast, efficient, and effective.
Today’s success story highlights how Organizational Architecture helped its client recruit the right person to fill an opening in their office. Our client is a financial planning and investment management company located in Westerville, OH. We have a long-standing relationship with this client and were excited to help them again.
One of the initial steps we took was to update the job description. We worked closely with our client to determine how this role fit into their organization as well as the necessary duties and responsibilities.
Spending time on the job description ensured we sourced, screened, and selected candidates efficiently and effectively. It also helped us streamline the recruitment process and find the right person for the job. Additionally, by taking the time to update the job description to fit their present needs, the new hire would understand exactly what was expected of them when they started and be able to meet those expectations.