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Survey: Age Discrimination Common in NC

PHOTO: One in three Americans over age 50 say they have experienced age discrimination firsthand.
PHOTO: One in three Americans over age 50 say they have experienced age discrimination firsthand.
July 25, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - It's no surprise to Chapel Hill's Peter Stein that age discrimination is a common practice in North Carolina.

As a senior research fellow at the Institute of Aging at the University of North Carolina, Stein says he often encounters unemployed seniors who feel they were let go because of their age. His experience is supported by a new survey from AARP, which finds that one in three seniors has seen age discrimination first-hand in the workplace.

"Too often I hear the complaint that they think the employer thinks they're kind of 'over the hill,' even though their job evaluation is good."

Although it is illegal to discriminate based on age, Congress is considering legislation that would reaffirm legal protections that were curtailed by a Supreme Court decision in 2009. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act has bipartisan support, and Stein says U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., are seen as key to its passage, although they are not co-sponsors of the bill.

The U.S. jobless rate for workers age 55 and older is at 6.2 percent, although Stein believes that number is much higher than reported since it doesn't account for the number of older workers who give up their job searches. He says it's time North Carolina businesses begin realizing what experienced workers have to offer.

"Older workers are more dedicated, punctual, they have lower absenteeism, they're detail-oriented, they're less likely to change jobs. "

According to AARP, it takes older workers a little over a year to find a job, compared with 38 weeks for younger workers.

The bill's text is online at

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC