What steps can an employer take to prevent age discrimination?

Author: Shannon C. Johnson

The most important step an employer can take to prevent age discrimination is to have a well-written and detailed discrimination policy or EEO policy that specifically prohibits age discrimination. The policy should include reporting and resolution procedures in the event an employee needs to file a complaint. All employees should be required to sign an acknowledgement that they received and understood the policy against age discrimination. Frequent employee training and education is also extremely beneficial in preventing age discrimination in the workplace. An employer should make sure that all supervisors, managers and HR personnel strictly enforce the policy prohibiting age discrimination. Such management employees should also be instructed to thoroughly document the legitimate business reasons and circumstances for all employment decisions.

An employer should also take steps to prevent age discrimination in hiring and recruiting potential employees. An employer should avoid interview questions that discriminate on the basis of age and instead focus on an individual's ability to perform the job in question.

An employer can also prevent age discrimination by avoiding stereotyping on the basis of age in the assignment of job duties and responsibilities. Further, an employer should train supervisors and employees to avoid age-related slurs, stereotypes and humor, which can be used as evidence of discrimination (e.g., "Jack cannot lift the boxes because he is an old fogey" or "Donna is so old she is hard of hearing and never takes down the messages correctly").