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Okay, Boomer: What employers need to know about ageism

The phrase, "Okay, Boomer" has become a joking way to refer to someone who seems out of touch, stuck in the past or just, well, older.

Except jokes are supposed to be funny to everybody. Jokes that negatively reference and target the aging part of the population are bound to rile a few people in that population -- and justifiably so. But jokes about age aren't just inappropriate; they can also open your company up to accusations of age discrimination. If you have heard the phrase "Okay, Boomer" rattling around your office, it's time to put a stop to it.

Here are some other ways you can guard against age discrimination suits:

  • Don't use coded words in ads. Terms in a job ad like "digital native" are equal to "younger person."
  • Be careful when interviewing. If you're uncertain about a person's qualifications, ask job-related questions, like "Are you comfortable with social media?" Do not ask things like, "So, when did you graduate high school?"
  • Don't stereotype. Don't assume that age is a barrier to learning new skills or tackling a technical project. Many older people take to new technology just as easily as younger people.
  • Don't push retirement. Being older doesn't necessarily mean retirement for a lot of people. If you start nudging an older employee toward retirement, you're creating a problem that could backfire, legally.
  • Watch your words. Aside from, "Okay, Boomer!" you need to watch ageist remarks like, "Back in your heyday," and other comments that can make an older worker self-conscious.

If you're facing a lawsuit regarding age discrimination against an employee or former employee, find out more about how to mount a successful defense.

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