Employment discrimination has been a controversial issue for a long time. So much it was that it came to the attention of Congress, which passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. However, at the time, the act did not encompass age in particular. In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed; stipulating the protection of the rights of employees discriminated upon (Gregory 2001). This especially applied to employees between the ages of forty and seventy as they were found to be most vulnerable to such incidences. It was felt that the age range stipulated by the act was narrow and so in 1986, the act was amended to include those in the age bracket of seventy too (Gregory 2001).
Age discrimination in the workplace becomes particularly rife in instances when the economy is deteriorating. At such times, companies and corporations seek to bring on board low maintenance cost employees who do not require high payment and compensation (Sargeant 2006). Older employees (aged forty and above) are stereotypically viewed as expensive to maintain in terms of high remuneration, compensation and even performance of duty. Due to their experience, they are usually associated with mammoth pay packages and benefits. Further, they are presumed to command high compensation figures when the need arises. Some employers also view them as limited in terms of work performance. However, research has demonstrated that there exists no clear cut relation between age and job performance (Gregory 2001).
The positive aspects attributable to age discrimination include the hiring of younger, more dynamic staff with the assurance of long-term service. This is especially true for employees with a higher level of job loyalty. Such corporations may sit back and enjoy a more zealous team that would possibly stay with the company for a long time. Most companies are in need of such individuals, who can maintain their loyalty to one organization. However, the major weakness is that if the company focuses on giving younger people priority in preference to older, more experienced job seekers, the company may miss out on a couple of things. One is the experience that many older job seekers come with (Sargeant, 2006). Having plied their trade for a considerable amount of time, their experience is viewed as an asset and added advantage to the companies that hire them. Further, their presence could prove a lot less expensive for the company especially when they need to train new staff members arises.
Research demonstrates that current trends in employment point to ever-increasing discrimination at the workplace, especially as regards age (Alexander, 2012). According to research, age discrimination has been reported by people as young as those in their mid-thirties. Companies are getting bent towards employing younger staff with more energy and with the emerging technological skills akin to fresh graduates. In the wake of all these, the older end of the population is bearing the brunt as they are missing out on crucial and life-changing opportunities because of their ages.
One company that has come under scrutiny due to allegations of discrimination of older staff members is the Federal Express company (FedEx). In 2007 the company faced two lawsuits. It was alleged that the company had come up with policies that discriminated against employees who were forty years and beyond. The lawsuit claimed that the company forced its employees to retire before or at the age of fifty-five years. Further, older employees were subjected to various forms of pressure and harassment. In particular, the older couriers were given unrealistic targets. According to the claim, they were redirected and new routes were given to each of them. These only served to make their ability to meet the objectives set for them even harder.
The effects of the discriminatory policies practiced by FedEx led to a lawsuit slapped on the company's face. The plaintiff, a former employee of the company spelled out the atrocities undertaken by the company that led him to take the step he did. From this perspective, it becomes evident that the company lost an employee, not just in the plaintiff, but in the rest of the older employees. The aftermath would be that any new employees coming to the company would find it difficult committing their careers (Gregory, 2001). The lack of job loyalty could prove devastating should there be a situation in which the need for job mobility arises.
FedEx should strive to make a difference in the way it treats its senior employees. The benefits accruing to this are numerous. To begin with, the company will enjoy a high level of job loyalty among the staff members. Further, it will be able to reap the benefits of keeping hold of the senior employees as they could help in inducting new staff members and giving them invaluable pieces of advice. The senior employees may also prove to be less costly to hire in the long run as the company will not be thrown into the hustle of training and guidance of newly acquired staff members (Sargeant, 2006). These effects will be important, especially if the company seeks to keep a competitive business environment.