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Preventing Ageism And Promoting The Value Of Older Staff Members

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged that Yale New Haven Hospital's "Late Career Practitioner Policy" violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed an age and disability discrimination lawsuit against the hospital, part of the Yale School of Medicine.

The "Late Career Practitioner Policy" requires neuropsychological and eye medical examinations for applicants as well as employees renewing their staff privileges only if they are 70 years of age or older.

According to the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the hospital tests individuals "without any suspicion that their neuropsychological ability may have declined." The EEOC alleges that these tests are based solely on age and are not "job-related and consistent with business necessity."

The EEOC lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief that includes requiring the hospital to discontinue the policy. "EEOC Sues Yale New Haven Hospital for Age and Disability Discrimination" eeoc.gov (Feb. 11, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

Family employers should never assume an older staff member can no longer perform certain manual tasks simply because of age.

Older staff members have a number of strengths, including loyalty, attention to detail, emotional maturity, confidence in their work, and leadership. Find ways to utilize the unique assets older workers have.

Stay vigilant for signs of age discrimination in your recruiting and hiring practices. Never specify age preferences, limitations, or specifications in job notices or advertisements or at any time during the interview process. A best practice is to not ask an applicant his or her birthday. 

Here are some additional guidelines family employers should follow to help prevent claims of age discrimination:

·      Know your state and other local laws governing age discrimination. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to employers with 20 or more employees and to employees who are age 40 or older. State laws may apply to smaller employers or employees of different ages.

·      Develop an age discrimination policy that includes a complaint procedure.

·      Provide information on your policy and procedures to all staff and managers annually and have them acknowledge receipt of the policy.

·      Train all supervisors annually on what constitutes age discrimination, the risks associated with it, and how to prevent it.

·      Make it clear to your managers and supervisors that no age-related comments will be tolerated in the workplace. An "innocent" or "teasing" remark can end up as evidence in a trial.

·      Follow your policy and procedures and thoroughly investigate any complaints of age discrimination.

·      Carefully analyze your reasons for terminating or laying off a staff member who is age 40 or older beforehand to make sure they are legal and justified. Perform all terminations in a legal manner.

·      Document and support all adverse employment action taken against an older individual, including failure to hire, termination, and failure to promote, with adequate paperwork showing there was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason.

·      Seek the advice of an attorney before implementing any new age-related policies.

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