Older workers must be able to continue to work should they need or choose to do so. By 2022, 35 percent of the total US workforce will be 50 or older, up from 28 percent in 2007. As the percentage of younger workers continues to decline, attracting and retaining older employees may become increasingly important for employers seeking to fill critical skill shortages and retain their competitive edge.
Yet older workers continue to face discrimination, especially in layoffs and hiring. In a 2012 AARP survey of workers age 45–74, nearly two-thirds said they thought workers face age discrimination in the workplace.
Older workers are also disproportionately affected by disability-based discrimination as many disabling conditions, and the presence of multiple disabilities, correlate with aging. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act thus have special significance for older workers. Older workers with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations on the job and job-protected time off from work (under federal or state laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act). Each of these, in turn, can be the basis for disability discrimination.
For information on age discrimination in areas other than employment, see Chapter 12, Personal and Legal Rights: Age Discrimination.