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Age Discrimination & HR

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Human Resources department play a crucial role in the development of an organization. Whether it is a big corporation or a small depot, HR department is integral in maintaining a sound and professional environment. The policies of any HR department can become a boon or a bane when it comes to recruitment. Any discrimination, particularly on age and gender, can ruin the reputation of an otherwise good company. Age discrimination in hiring and recruitment has become more of an anomaly rather than a regular feature. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits any discrimination against person of 40 years or older. (Sargeant, 2006) The actual implementation of this policy, however, remains mired in controversy.

The most common cause of age discrimination is the perception that an older employee can be less efficient or vice versa. Many companies have a tilt towards the youth. However, what exactly is age discrimination and why is it such a big issue? The discrimination in hiring new employees transcends the racial and religious boundaries. Increasingly, companies have started to prefer young professionals as compared to old and experienced ones. The major reason for this discrimination is rooted deep in the stereotypes. The general perception is that old people have lived their lives and they cannot contribute positively (Foot & Hook, 2008).

Ethically, this discrimination is baseless. Age itself is not always the best factor in deciding the abilities of a person. Old people are generally more experienced as compared to a novice. It is true that some of them are not aware of the technological changes and job environment as compared to younger generation. Still, rejecting an otherwise qualified candidate on the base of his/her age is highly unethical. The current international employment scene is more prone to age discrimination as compared to the U.S job market. This is particularly true in the developing countries where old job seekers are mostly unqualified for the next-generation jobs. These types of jobs are essentially Information Technology and automation related, a field, which has only evolved over a decade or so (Sergeant, 2006).

The contemporary job market in the U.S is relatively more adapting to old employees. People over the age of 40, as per the act, can take the employers to the court in case of any malpractices. Some companies have learned how to navigate through this legal bounding. While they do not discriminate to the persons over 40, those above 30 face some heat, especially if the company has a pool of young professional applicants. Some organizations, especially the banks, discourage older workers with the excuse that they cannot pay their high salaries. Experience, after all, is not so cheap and old employees can become a burden on the company (Gregory, 2001).

It all boils down to an efficient management of the HR department. If the HR managers are doing their job properly and complying with all the legal and ethical norms, there would be hardly any issues of discrimination, including age discrimination. The HR department can deal with this issue by applying a certain set of rules. The first Standard Operating Procedure of any HR department should be an evaluation of the new position available. Almost all advertisements carry the “We are an equal opportunity employer.” This, however, is not sufficient. The HR department has to be very cautious and extra-vigilant in selecting the final pool of candidates. If the job is of extremely complex nature that involves the use of modern technology, the old candidates will most likely not apply. (Gregory, 2001)

Otherwise, if they are qualified enough then they should be given a chance. Similarly, while scouting for a new employee, the HR manager can add the phrase “equal opportunity employer for all ages,” (Gregory, 2001) especially if the reputation of the company is at stake by previous discriminatory policies. The final solution to this problem lies in devising a new HR policy. The HR department in itself should be empowered to make the key decisions. In both the U.S and other countries, the management unnecessarily interferes in the recruitment process. The situation is worse in Asia and Africa where nepotism and favoritism runs high.

The best way of dealing with age discrimination is to challenge the policies of a company. A candidate can question the company’s policies in a court if the need arises. Most people stay mum and do not pursue a tough stance. It is a two-way process where both the company and the prospective employees have to engage with each other to come up with better HR policies. Conclusively, the paper has discussed some of the significant aspects of age discrimination and steps that can be taken to deal the issue effectively. It is hoped that the paper will be beneficial for students, teachers, and professionals in better understanding of the topic.


Foot, Margaret & Hook, Caroline, (2008). Introducing Human Resource Management. FT Press.

Gregory, Raymond F. (2001). Age Discrimination in the American Workplace. Rutgers University Press.

Sargeant, Malcolm. (2006). Age discrimination in employment. Ashgate Publishing.


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