The City Council is weighing a package of bills that would create a city agency to help senior citizens find jobs and require the city to investigate age discrimination in the workplace.
“We’re tired of being swept under the rug,” said City Council Member Margaret Chin at an Oct. 8 City Hall rally. “Age discrimination creates a toxic workplace culture that results in job loss, financial strain and perpetuates the myth that when you hit a certain age, you are no longer valued in the economy.”
60% Report Bias
More than 60 percent of workers across the country 45 or older reported experiencing or witnessing age discrimination on the job, according to an AARP survey. A report by the Urban Institute and ProPublica using data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study found that 56 percent of respondents 50 or older said that they were pushed out of a longtime job. Just 1 in 10 were able to find another job paying the same salary.
Ms. Chin, the bills’ sponsor, noted that addressing age discrimination in the workplace was especially important because seniors increasingly cannot afford to stop working. She also said that the prejudice against older workers disproportionately affected women, who have already had to deal with sexism throughout their careers.
One woman, Regina Matson, described her difficulty finding work after being let go from financial firm Morgan Stanley during the 2008 recession. After being unemployed for the first time in her career since she began working in 1981, she couldn’t find a job for two years.
When she did land a full-time position, she said that she was harassed because of her age, including being teased for using an AOL email account. Although she was spearheading a project, she said she was purposely left out of meetings, and was eventually let go.
“You feel so less-than because you’re not able to find work, I don’t even know who I am sometimes,” Ms. Matson said.
Covers Public, Private Sectors
The proposed legislation, which is being backed by Council Members Mathieu Eugene and Diana Ayala, seeks to prevent age discrimination in both public- and private sector jobs. The age of the average city employee is 44, according to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, and about a third of the city’s workforce is 50 or older.
One bill would mandate each city agency annually provide trainings to identify age discrimination. Last year, the city Commission on Human Rights received 193 claims of age discrimination, and 119 of those were related to workplace discrimination.
If passed, one bill would require the commission to submit to the Council its findings from investigations of claims of on-the-job age-discrimination.
“In government, the absence of data generally goes hand in hand with the absence of policy. That’s what makes this package so smart,” said Paul Nagle, head of the Stonewall Community Development Corporation, which works to provide housing for LGBTQ senior citizens.
Help With Training
The proposals would also create an Office of Older Adult Workforce Development, which would assist older people who are looking for work or job-training.
“A lot of times when older workers go to the workforce centers, they do not get the special attention they need,” Ms. Chin said. “That’s why it’s important to set up an office just for them so if they need computer training, they can get another job or keep the job they have.”
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