The Tie Between Economic Insecurity & Age Discrimination

Colorado needs stronger laws to ensure all workers, regardless of identity, can find and maintain meaningful employment. The prevalence of age discrimination, its impacts on family security, and the knowledge that we can do better, drives the Bell Policy Center’s advocacy for stronger anti-discrimination laws. By creating more robust age discrimination policies, we’ll be taking an important step forward in advancing an economy that works for everyone.

Age Discrimination & Economic Security

Like Colorado as a whole, our state’s workforce is aging, with those 65 and older being the fastest growing segment of our labor force. Importantly, a majority of older Coloradans report working for reasons related to economic security. Connectedly, in our recent report, Economic Mobility for Low-Income Families in Colorado, we find the age of those below the poverty line has been on the rise between 2005 and 2018, increasing to 48 years old.

Primary Reasons Older Coloradans Are Looking for Work (bar chart with yellow bars)

But just as more Coloradans are finding they need to worker longer, we’re also seeing concerningly high rates of age discrimination in the workplace. As we note in a recent brief:

Whatever the form, whether it’s employers weeding out applications based upon high school or graduation dates, antiquated ideas that older workers are incapable or uninterested in learning new skills, or pushing older employees out of their jobs to make way for younger workers, age discrimination causes long-lasting financial harm to families across our state.

Building on Past Efforts to Support Older Coloradans

Over the past several years, the Bell has prioritized important policy solutions — like creating paid family and medical leave and state-facilitated retirement saving programs — that benefit older Coloradans who are both in the workforce and nearing retirement. Strengthening age discrimination statutes in Colorado is a natural continuation of this work to ensure our economy is one that works for everyone.

In their present form, our state’s age discrimination statutes provide poor protection for older workers. One of the most notable, glaring flaws centers on the fact victims of age discrimination are explicitly prohibited from receiving certain types of damages that other protected groups are eligible for. As a result of this gap, there’s less of an incentive for victims to bring forward suits that deter bad actors who continue discriminatory practices against older workers.

We must embrace opportunities to right our current protections for older workers. By changing current statute to ensure victims of age discrimination can receive both punitive and compensatory damages, we’ll be taking a large step to creating a more equitable set of workplace protections. But more than this, with stronger age discrimination laws, we’ll be fostering a fairer economy that allows all Coloradans to thrive.

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