7 Things to Know About Workplace Age Discrimination in Colorado

Age Discrimination is Really Prevalent

Age discrimination in the workplace — from derogatory comments to premature firings or refusals to hire or promote older workers — is remarkably common. In a recent, statewide survey of adults aged 50 and older, over 30 percent say they’ve experienced age discrimination.

Devastating Consequences for Individuals & Families

Whether physical, mental, or financial, age discrimination causes real harm. Most older workers in Colorado say they work for reasons related to economic security, meaning a loss of income can cause a massive shock to their economic well-being — especially when paired with the fact only 1 in 10 older workers forced out of their jobs are ever able to financially recover.

But the impacts of age discrimination aren’t just economic — they’re also physical, emotional, and connected to a shorter lifespan.

Businesses Suffer, Too

Age discrimination’s impacts aren’t isolated to individuals. In reality, age discrimination harms everyone. In 2018, age discrimination cost the U.S. $50 billion in lost wages, taxes, and productivity. By 2050, that number is projected to grow to $3.9 billion.

Age Discrimination Compounds Preexisting Inequities

When combined with gender, race, ethnicity, or income, age discrimination hits already marginalized communities hardest. Research regularly shows age discrimination is more prevalent and/or occurs earlier for older workers in low-wage jobs, women, and Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and those in other communities of color.

Especially when combined with structural inequities — from systemic under investments in needed workplace supports to lifetimes of disparate pay — the inability to find meaningful employment in older age becomes even more devastating for already marginalized communities.

COVID-19 is Making Age Discrimination Worse

Age discrimination was a reality for many Coloradans well before COVID-19. Challenges for older workers however are only likely to grow as our state slowly recovers from a virus-induced economic downturn. Historical evidence shows in the aftermath of recessions, older workers are disproportionately amongst the long-term unemployed — and even when if they can find employment, are often forced to take positions with lower wages.

Current Age Discrimination Protections Are Inadequate

While we have state and federal laws to both prevent age discrimination and help victims, they’re grossly inadequate. In several important ways, age is treated differently than all other groups that have discrimination protections. As one glaring example, Colorado state law explicitly prohibits victims of age discrimination from receiving certain types of damages other groups are eligible for. As a result, there’s less incentive for victims to bring forward suits and deter bad actors from continuing their discriminatory practices.

Change is Possible

Age discrimination is a real harm to Colorado communities, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can strengthen our age discrimination laws and bring them into alignment with the protections available for all other groups in our state. By doing so, we can make progress in creating an economy that works for everyone.

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