About a week or so ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reminded employers that federal anti-discrimination law does not require that businesses accommodate older workers due to their age if, for example, they need help returning to work. I wrote about that here.
But, here’s the thing.
The EEOC also said that Age Discrimination in Employment Act would “prohibit a covered employer from involuntarily excluding an individual from the workplace based on his or her being 65 or older, even if the employer acted for benevolent reasons such as protecting the employee due to higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.”
I think they’re serious.
Consider this recent EEOC settlement, albeit unrelated to COVID-19, in which the federal discrimination watchdog recovered $10 million, along with injunctive relief, from a California company. Allegedly, the company “systemically laid off employees over the age of 40 in favor of retaining younger employees.” The EEOC also alleged that older employees were passed over for rehire in favor of less qualified, younger employees.
Yes, accommodations may be limited to situations involving employees with disabilities, but do not consider age when considering which employees to bring back from furlough status. Ditto other employment actions that could result in favoring younger employees — whether based on stereotypes or other unlawful factors — to the detriment of older workers.
Otherwise, your stereotypes and other mistreatment of older employees could end up costing you $$$.