Age Discrimination in the Workplace

New York City Council
Joint Hearing
Committee on Aging, Chair, Council Member Chin
Committee on Civil and Human Rights, Chair, Council Member Eugene
September 17, 2018
Oversight: Age Discrimination in the Workplace

 LiveOn NY thanks Chairs Chin and Eugene for holding this important and historic Joint Hearing on age discrimination in the workplace.

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Prior to illuminating the very real challenges that often exist for older adults in the workplace, we must step back and recognize the obvious but often underappreciated fact that aging is, in fact, a life process. By this we mean that we are all aging: that 50 is not the same as 85, nor are 75 or 45 monolithic experiences to be benchmarked by a standard set of life events. We all experience life, and aging, differently and deserve the opportunity to thrive in accordance with our own drive, desires, limitations, and values, no matter the age. For some, this may mean an early and long-awaited retirement; for others, a second act in an unexplored career path; for most, however, it means the continued economic pressures of an often unequal society.

This economic reality means that many older adults simply cannot afford the fiscal implications of a frequently age-biased and at times even discriminatory society and therefore workplace. Even beyond economic pressures, older adults should not be shunted the opportunity to fulfill the seemingly innate desire to have utility, be productive, and contribute.

Unfortunately, working in opposition to the economic and personal desires of many older adults, roughly 3 in 5 older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, as found by a recent AARP study. Though highly unreported, the most common age-discrimination reports involve an individual not being hired due to age, followed closely by being passed over for promotions. These occurrences’ have a clear fiscal impact on the individual and may be more common than has been enumerated given the aforementioned lack of reporting.

For already marginalized populations, such as women, immigrants, or minority communities, these age-related injustices only serve to exacerbate existing inequities. Inequities such as lost wages due to caregiving, persistent wage gap within communities of color, and lack of pension options for a multitude of workers, means that the financial margins for many older adults are so slim that the effects of age discrimination can be devastating.

It is critical that we, as a city, work to combat age discrimination in the workplace and to address the root causes of these injustices. It is time that older adults are recognized for their strengths, many of which are highly sought after in today’s workforce. Namely, it has been found that older workers demonstrate higher levels of professionalism, reliability, commitment, a stronger work ethic and lower turnover. Going beyond the workplace, it is imperative that we recognize the value of older adults in society at-large, as demonstrated through countless hours of volunteerism, local economic impact, caregiving responsibility, civic and community engagement, and more.

We at LiveOn NY are appreciative of this opportunity to change the narrative around the value of older adults and older workers. We support the Council’s call to better support older adults who experience age discrimination in the workplace and to ensure that employment opportunities exist for those seeking to work. Further, it is not enough that opportunities exist, but that older adults are aware of said opportunities. For example, it is imperative that older New Yorkers are aware of the federally funded Title V program, the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) that is run through the Department for the Aging, as an opportunity for older adults to find gainful employment in their communities.

LiveOn NY is excited at the prospect of finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing this population, whether it be through increasing awareness of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) which gives adults over the age of 40 protections in the workplace or creating mechanisms to ensure a diversity of age representation in the workplace. We are confident that through private and public efforts improvements can be made. For example, a Starbucks in Mexico City will soon be run and staffed only by individuals 55 and over after seeing vast employment needs among the elderly in their community. While we recognize that there is no one size fits all solution, nor do we wish to segregate workplaces strictly by age, we would like to recognize the community responsiveness of this endeavor and the initiative that can be taken to address this inequity.

To close, LiveOn NY would like to stress the importance of recognizing the value and contributions of older adults in all aspects of the public and private spheres and to reframe the way we as a society view and treat the oldest among us. LiveOn NY looks forward to continued conversations on how to make New York a better place to work and age.

Thank you for your time and the opportunity to testify on this important issue.