Workplace bias claims rise – Filings based on Age and Disability

Workplace bias claims rise – Filings based on Age and Disability – Brief Article

Janet Wiscombe

At a time of cutting people and clipping resources, the workplace can be particularly cruel to older and disabled people. New data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for 2001 shows that allegations of discrimination based on age and disability are the two categories of charges filed with the agency against private employers that are conspicuously increasing.

The statistics, which are available online at www.eeoc.gov, illustrate that the charges filed through the agency increased 1 percent from the previous year to 80,840–the highest level since the mid-1990s. Compared to the year 2000, allegations of discrimination based on age rose 1.5 percent, and those related to disability increased .5 percent. All other charges declined slightly or remained at about he same level as the previous year.

“The incidence rate of age and disability discrimination appears to be on the rise with the graying of America,” EEOC chariwoman Can M. Dominguez said in a prepared statement. “Employers must be vigilant in preventing such characteristics from being factored in to their employment decisions.”

EEOC spokesman David Grinberg says the new figures aren’t unexpected. “Generally, during an economic downturn and recession we see a spike in the number of charges filed with the EEOC. The increase began in 1999 and jumped 2.3 percentage points by 2001. But if you do the math of all filings from 1999 to 2001, there was a 19 percent increase–from 14,141 charges filed in 1999 to more than 17,000 in 2001.

“The time period is significant,” Grinberg adds. “There is a correlation between downsizing and older workers. Employers think they can justify saving money by downsizing them because of their higher salaries.

“Employers need to justify layoffs based on merit, not on discrimination. There is a misperception that older workers are slow to learn new technology can’t be retrained, and can’t keep up with the workload. These stereotypes tend not to be true.”

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