Workers over age 50 make up a third of Connecticut’s workforce, and they face a number of challenges in this economy, but discrimination shouldn’t be one of them.
Age discrimination is already illegal in Connecticut, but a loophole in state law is partly to blame for allowing age discrimination to exist in the hiring process. Our proposal aims to close that loophole and level the playing field for older individuals who are looking for employment.
Current Connecticut law allows employers to require that both date of birth and the high school or college graduation dates of a job applicant be included in an initial job application. This allows for the possibility of vetting job candidates based on his or her age, rather than on their qualifications.
It’s time to get dates of birth and graduation dates off of job applications. It would be a win-win for older workers and for Connecticut’s economy.
Many people are staying in the job market well past traditional retirement age of 65 for a variety of reasons, so older residents increasingly represent a larger share of the workforce. The 50-plus population in Connecticut contributes about half of the state’s GDP, and they provide about half of our state and local tax revenues. If residents 50 and older are unable to find adequate employment in Connecticut, the consequences for our state, for our economy, and for our society could be profound.
The 50-plus segment of the workforce is the most engaged group of workers of any generation, which translates to higher productivity, increased revenues, and improved business. Moreover, an intergenerational workforce is a more productive and innovative workforce. Despite this, an AARP survey of nearly 4,000 workers and job seekers age 45 and older found that age discrimination in the workplace is common, and most believe it starts when workers are in their 50s.
More than 60 pecent of respondents indicated that they have either experienced or seen age discrimination. Women and African Americans reported the highest levels of age discrimination. More than 50 percent of workers over age 50 reported being pushed out of longtime jobs before they choose to retire, and only 10 percent of them ever earned as much at their new job as they did at their old job. Nearly 45 percent of older job seekers were asked for age-related information such as their date of birth or graduation dates.
Employers can put themselves at risk when they ask for age-related information, and the Society of Human Resource Management recommends that employers not ask for dates of birth or graduation dates in the initial job application.
Yet that information continues to appear on many job applications, even when age is completely irrelevant to a particular position.
Our bill, HB 6113, seeks to prohibit employers from inquiring about dates of birth and graduation dates on initial employment applications in Connecticut, thereby eliminating a legally suspect practice while offering important protections for older workers.
The public appears to be on board with this reform. More than 90 percent of workers age 45 and up agree that age discrimination protections should be just as strong as other discrimination protections. Let’s make 2019 the year that Connecticut values experience and recognizes fairness as we pass important legislation that protects today’s older workers — and all of us — as we age.
Derek Slap is the state Senator for the 5th District, representing West Hartford, Farmington, Burlington and Bloomfield.