The problem of age discrimination seems to be endemic in the modern industrialized world, primarily because of employer perceptions that older workers are more costly than they are beneficial. The purpose of this paper is to look at the ethical elements involved in age discrimination in terms of downsizing, or reductioninforce, efforts in business. Reductioninforce efforts seem to have impacted the older worker disproportionately.
This paper provides a brief review of the literature on downsizing and age discrimination. Results indicate that age discrimination during the downsizing process is difficult to prove, although many believe that it occurs frequently. The consequences of termination of older employees unfairly can be tragic for the older worker, with the likelihood that they will experience difficulties in obtaining comparable jobs and incomes. For the companies, too, badlymanaged and unethical discriminatory downsizing efforts can lead to decreased morale and productivity. Remedies include education about, and enforcement of, the ADEA. Current trends in demographics and job design may also help change the situation.
According to Alan Wolfe (1995), no society yet has managed to figure out what to do with people who are dependent and experienced at the same time. While this seems a vast overgeneralization, since there have been important roles for elders in many societies, it does seem true of the United States.
The intention in this paper is to look at the ethical problem of age discrimination and relate it to the contemporary issue of downsizing. While downsizing affects workers of all ages, the Laborforce 2000 study indicated that older workers lost more jobs proportionately because of downsizing (Koch, 1995). While this only covered the last five year period, that has been the peak of the downsizing efforts. In addition, studies show that older workers take longer to find new jobs, and those jobs...