Are experience caps discriminatory?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people with several years of experience to find jobs. If you have ever been a job seeker with a few grey hairs, you have probably felt at least a bit of the sting that comes with being turned away for your age.

Age discrimination when applying for a position is still discrimination and very much illegal – employers have found a new way to try to circumvent this, however. Some job posting are now stating a “maximum” amount of experience applicants may have.

Precluded strictly because you been around the block

This was the barrier to entry that Dale Kleber faced four years ago when he never heard back from a job he was perfectly qualified for. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Kleber, a veteran lawyer with decades of experience, applied for a position that allowed a maximum of 7 years’ experience. Kleber, who was 58 at the time, suspects his age is why he was not hired.

Not content to accept this, Kleber plied his trade and brought a discrimination lawsuit against the employer. He argued that this age cap was unnecessary and was clearly a thinly veiled attempt to discriminate against potential hires.

“You look at a job, a job you can do and do well, and you’re precluded from that strictly because you’ve been around the block a few times,” Kleber said. “The impact was clearly that just about anyone over 40 wasn’t going to be considered, and I thought that was discriminatory.”

The case was eventually dismissed by a federal trial court judge, but Kleber has not given up. The issue is now before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

The future for an aging workforce

The number of older people in the workforce is growing and is expected to continue to grow. The number of people 55 and older who are still working has doubled in the last 25 years, and workers 65 and older is expected to shoot up 75 percent in the next 30 years.

The Chicago Tribune continued to report that federal appeals courts have consistently been split on whether this constitutes age discrimination. Their indecision makes it likely that this matter will eventually cross the bench of the Supreme Court.

Kleber does not appear to be backing down from this matter. Should his proceedings return to trial, it could lead to a major determination. This attempt at quelling discrimination against older workers could result in new ground for the rights of these workers.

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