The Current State of Age Discrimination in Education

Throughout the United States, educators who have taught for a number of years are starting to feel the effects of a growing problem around age discrimination in their schools. Traditionally heralded as valuable teaching commodities in schools based on their experience, teachers who are in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s have fallen victim to ageism.

According to AARP, nearly two-thirds of workers have seen or experienced ageism in the workplace and this kind of discrimination isn’t just happening in offices or more specific fields like law enforcement. However, teachers are discriminated against for their age are taking action to fight ageism, especially at a time when the sector is facing a teacher shortage. Here’s a better look at the current state of age discrimination among our teachers.

Targeted Dismissals

Legally, no matter what industry you work in, you cannot be dismissed from duty based solely on your age. Educators can find peace of mind in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which provides protection for educators aged 40 and over against this type of unfair practice.

In some cases, school administrators find ways to create verbiage around firing someone due to their age so it doesn’t look like ageism, such as “improvement plans” or “new direction” or “restructuring.” If a school is discovered to have discriminated against a teacher due to their age and they tried covering it up, this could spell major trouble for the school and the district in which they work.

One case in North Carolina, saw $25,000 be awarded to a teacher after she filed a lawsuit with the help of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proving that the school she worked at did not promote her due to her age. In Oklahoma City, the EEOC filed an amicus brief in a 2009 case, arguing that the trial court was incorrect in dismissing a lawsuit by an older educator who had been given a demotion because of her age.

In the United States, the education industry is seeing a teacher shortage of epic proportions. In a recent study by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute (EPI), it was found that an estimated that the U.S. is currently facing a shortage of about 110,000 educators, skyrocketing from just 20,000 in 2012.

The argument here is why would schools that desperately need educators in the classroom fire their employees or encourage them to leave no matter their age?

Teachers with years of experience continue to show their value in the classroom and targeting their dismissal due to their age is being defended more strictly with those at fault being handled more harshly, and rightfully so. At a time when teacher pay and support continues to be overlooked, it’s important for educators to know their rights and schools to know the legal repercussions of ageism in the classroom.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.