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The tough economy seems to have hit older workers particularly hard, and age discrimination claims are rising as a result.

According to an article, age discrimination claims have hit record levels. Citing Equal Employment Opportunity Commission statistics, the article states that claims have risen steadily from 16,000 in 2006 to 23,000 in 2010.

This is not surprising considering the unemployment statistics on older workers. Those 55 and over are unemployed for an average length of 52.4 weeks. The average is just 37.4 weeks for younger workers, according to AARP employment data cited in the article.  Also, more than half of the unemployed older workers are considered “long-term unemployed,”meaning that they have been out of work at least 27 weeks.

Older workers are often the first to go in layoffs because they are usually the highest paid workers.  They are also often overlooked for new jobs because employers (usually incorrectly) assume that older workers are less productive, are hard to train, are frequently absent, and invite higher health insurance costs.

On the flip side, more savvy companies realize that older workers come with a wealth of knowledge and often strong work ethics.  They are tapping into that knowledge base through a trend we previously reported on called retiree re-staffing where companies retain or bring in older workers on consulting or contract assignments.  These arrangements are good for the workers, too, many who are not able or not willing to retire completely but want a more flexible work arrangement than traditional full-time employment provides.

Older workers can find companies that will value the knowledge and experience they have to offer, but they may need to think outside the traditional work model they are used to. You can help them do that by providing contract opportunities where they can continue to contribute their expertise.

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