During the coronavirus pandemic, Paula McClain, 68, of Denver, found herself out of a job when the company she worked at downsized. But even with years of experience in marketing and diversity programs—including undergraduate and graduate degrees—she could not find full-time work.
She was a finalist for five positions but didn’t receive any offers. Nor did she get any feedback or explanations as to why, McClain says. She feels ageism played a role.
Even though the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act was passed 55 years ago, older adults often still feel they have a disadvantage in the workplace or during a job search.
Last year, AARP surveyed nearly 3,000 Americans age 50 and over, including 1,340 who were in the labor force. Some 25 percent of those workers reported experiencing age discrimination since turning 40, according to the survey.
Pushing for legislation to address such discrimination is a top priority for AARP during the Colorado General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session, which begins this month. Promoting housing affordability will also be on the agenda.
AARP Colorado supports removing graduation dates from job applications to ensure older workers get a fair chance at employment and aren’t discriminated against, says Allison Hiltz, its advocacy director.
Age discrimination inflicts both financial and emotional harm on older workers. A 2018 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report noted that unemployment between jobs lasts longer for older adults, and when reemployed, they are likely to take significant pay cuts.
Colorado state Sen. Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge) says she plans to introduce this year a measure targeting age discrimination in the hiring process. At least five other states have laws that ban age-related questions directed at job applicants, according to AARP research.
For McClain, retirement isn’t an option at the moment, so she continues to apply for positions. At age 50, she removed all date references from her résumé. But with online job applications, which many companies now use, an applicant often can’t get around the dates if she wants to complete the process, McClain says.
She is now looking at a middle management position.
“I could do it easily,” McClain notes. But she worries that ageism will play a role yet again, and if so, whether she’ll be able to handle that mentally.
AARP Colorado’s other advocacy priorities for the 2023 legislative session include working toward economic security for all Coloradans, promoting equity, and preserving clean air and water.
AARP’s Hiltz also expects to see bills introduced to deal with the state’s housing crisis. “Colorado has both an inventory and affordability problem,” she says.
In 2015, 76 percent of Colorado housing was considered affordable for a median income household; by 2022, that number had dropped to 51 percent, according to the Colorado Futures Center, an independent nonprofit affiliated with Colorado State University.
Follow developments during the legislative session at aarp.org/co. To become an AARP Colorado volunteer advocate, visit aarp.org/volunteerAARPCO.
Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.
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