Challenges and Opportunities
Edited by Ronald J. Burke, Cary Cooper and Alexander-Stamatios Antoniou
Chapter 5: Cause, effect, and solution? The uneasy relationship between older age bias and age discrimination law
Causal explanations for age bias may draw from varied theoretical accounts. These include neoliberal accounts based in economics, political economy perspectives emphasizing industrial change and flexible labor markets, and post-modern arguments tied to the breakdown of cultural values and social groups (Wood et al., 2008). From a public policy perspective, however, among the most influential explanations for older age bias are accounts derived from the research of industrial and organizational psychologists. Described variously as the problem of ageism, prejudice, stereotyping, or implicit bias, unfounded assumptions about older workers and their corresponding ill effects are justifications articulated by policymakers and courts for the prohibition of age discrimination in employment (Bisom-Rapp and Sargeant, 2013). Despite the ubiquity of a psychologically based rationale for legal regulation, deficiencies in the construction and application of legal doctrine, and the recent experience of older workers during the global economic crisis (Bisom-Rapp et al., 2011; Neumark and Button, 2013) raise important questions about the sufficiency of employment discrimination law as protective armor for an aging workforce. Drawing on the authors’ previous work, this chapter addresses these matters as follows. First, the chapter lays out a relatively simple account of older age bias derived from the psychological literature and highlights its strong tie to age discrimination law.
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