Are we seniors or older Americans? The number of people 65 and older of traditional working ages (ages 20 to 64) is projected to be 35 to every 100 people in 2030. In fact, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the number of workers over age 55 is projected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, with this demographic group projected to comprise as much as 20% of the workforce by 2015.
Aging, by itself, is not an impairment, but a person who has a medical condition (such as hearing loss, osteoporosis, or arthritis) often associated with age, has an impairment on the basis of the medical condition.
Regardless of what we call workers who are in the workforce beyond their expected retirement age, we do know that as we age, our chances of having a disability increase. Older workers typically don’t think of themselves as “disabled” even when, for example, their eyesight or hearing fails...or when diagnosed with a heart condition or diabetes. However, these Impairments may mean older workers are protected by the ADA and are entitled to workplace supports that help them keep working and help you retain valuable employees. Limitations may be from aging, returning to work after an injury, the occurrence of a primary disability, the exacerbation of a long-term impairment, and/or prevention of a secondary impairment. Many older workers, however, will continue to work at full production with no limitations and no need for accommodations.
President Obama declared the month of May as Older Americans Month. This is a perfect time to review your reasonable accommodation policies and procedures to ensure that you are putting forth a “good faith” effort to accommodate workers who may need supports to maintain full productivity. Do your procedures include talking with the employee and asking such questions as:
1. What limitation(s) is the employee experiencing and how is their performance affected?
2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
3. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
If not, do your supervisory personnel and employees need training? Springboard Consulting helps many employers develop and/or modify their practices to ensure their policies and procedures comply with Federal anti-discrimination laws such as the ADA and OFCCP.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.