How To Make Your Job Descriptions Age Friendly

By JDXpert - April 03, 2016

Most of us know that asking applicants for their birth date or age on a job application or referencing age on a job description is unlawful but are you aware that there are other things you can do to make your job descriptions even more age friendly?
The Law
In 1967, the U.S. Federal Government passed the law known as, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) which protects individuals, employees and job applicants, who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. It is unlawful under the ADEA to discriminate against a person when it comes to hiring, promotion, firing, layoff, compensation, benefit, job assignment, or training.  It is important to note that the ADEA does not protect younger employees (under age 40) against what many call “reverse discrimination” but many states have their own laws banning any age-based discrimination.

Take Note From The U.K.
Many job descriptions used by U.S. companies today include something like, “must have 10 years’ experience” but did you know that in the United Kingdom, including such a phrase could put you in hot water?  In October of 2006, the U.K. passed The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, which prohibits employers from unreasonably discriminating against employees on based on their age.  This legislation is now superseded by the Equality Act 2010 which continues to provide protection against age discrimination, both direct and indirect, for any employee or job applicant.  Because this law protects employees or potential employees ofall ages, including “so many years’ experience” on a job description should be avoided because younger applicants may be excluded, not because of skill but because of age.

Tips You Can Use
Although U.S. age discrimination laws are not as comprehensive as those in the U.K., it is still suggested that you avoid age-bias, favoring no age group over another, when constructing your job descriptions.  Below are a few tips: 
  • Construct your job description based on essential functions/ qualifications of the job.  Consider using terms like “extensive experience” instead of “10 years’ experience”; this way, the focus will be on skill and not on age.
  • Educational attainment has changed over the years (e.g. In 2011, 30%* of those 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 1980, when that number was about 17%**).  Be sure to ask yourself if the educational qualifications requested are necessary and current for the position and if it disadvantages people of different ages.
  • Avoid using phrases such as “recent college graduate” or “young and energetic” in job advertisements because this will show favor towards young applicants.  However, words like “mature” or “established” may show bias towards older candidates.
  • Place job advertisements where they will reach job applicants of every age group, not just the newspaper and not just online.
With a struggling job market, displaced workers of all ages are searching for new careers.  Protect yourself from age discrimination claims and review your job descriptions before an issue arises.  

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