By Fred C. Pampel

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Their jobs are costly to companies, and in the view of young people, block promotion opportunities. Although employment decisions based on cost may sound like smart business strategy, critics say they are really a way to hide bias against older workers. As an example, they point to a 2001 suit involving Capital One Financial. The corporation cut payroll through firing what it claimed were its worst performers. However, a class action suit brought by 60 former employees alleged that the corporation systematically let go its oldest workers and changed performance ratings to justify the firings.

Older workers will run up costs of company health insurance plans. • Older workers will face greater health problems and sick leave. • Older workers will less successfully present a youthful, hip image of the company. • Older workers will have less energy, stamina, and drive to prove themselves. Some older workers may fit these generalizations, and employers may disqualify them from jobs based on their merit and suitability. However, when the beliefs are applied to all older persons, it constitutes age discrimination.

Banning age discrimination is a matter of justice and civil rights rather than economics and profit. People should be judged on their individual merit rather than group membership. Older workers should have the right to prove they do not fit stereotypes about their age groups. They do not differ from women and minority groups in this regard. Rather than to weaken the ADEA, many want stronger enforcement of the law. Raymond Gregory, a lawyer who has worked on many age discrimination cases, recommends that employers be required to keep records of the age of job applicants, hires, company employees, and firings.

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