Sexual Harassment: What’s Next?

By Kelly A. Hayden, JD, Chief Legal Counsel
Published July 10, 2018

age discriminationFor the past six to eight months, the news has been filled with stories of employees’ experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers have responded by re-drafting policies and educating and training employees to reduce, if not eradicate, such experiences.

But sexual harassment isn’t the only type of harassment employees face in the workplace. As part of a study conducted pursuant to the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that age discrimination may be more prevalent than employers realize.  Some interesting points from the report include:

  • More than six in ten workers age 45 and older say that they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. Over 90% of workers say it is somewhat or very common. And in a 2015 survey, more than three out of four older workers believed age was an obstacle to finding a job.
  • In 2010, for the first time, women were more likely to file a charge of age discrimination than men, and that trend continues. Also, the number of age discrimination charges filed by African-Americans and Asians has more than doubled since the 1990s.
  • The age at which workers say they are discriminated against has also increased. In 1990, a charge was most likely to be filed by a worker in the 40-54 age group.  Now, workers in the 55-64 age group are the most common complainants.  Since the 1990s, the percentage of charges has also doubled in the over 65 category.
  • What type of discriminatory practices do complainants allege? Of course, discrimination can take all shapes and forms. Of significance in the report were hiring practices. Specifically mentioned were job postings that preferred “digital natives” and on-line application forms asking for dates of birth and graduation dates that could not be bypassed. 
    A copy of the EEOC’s report can be found here.

What can an employer do? 
Of course, anti-harassment training should always address age as a protected class and provide examples of appropriate/inappropriate behavior in the workplace. However, with hiring practices specifically mentioned, employers should review their methods to ensure they comport with the ADEA, and make sure that anyone conducting interviewing has had training in the legal aspects of this important employment process. 

What can the Human Resources Department do?  
Mentoring programs, employee engagement surveys, and flexible work options are just a few strategies that you may offer to ensure that all employees remain productive and engaged during their time spent working at your organization.

Members with questions about anti-harassment training or discrimination issues may contact us at 800-448-4584 or hotline@hrsource.org

 

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