As a black woman who is also over the age of 50, it breaks my heart when we receive calls from AARP members who cannot find jobs or even get an interview in a labor market that is screaming for qualified workers. People whose jobs have been downsized or who have had to leave the workforce to care for a loved one often find it difficult to reenter the workforce. Many start tapping into their retirement savings or must take Social Security earlier, thereby forgoing full benefits and losing needed retirement income.

These heartbreaking stories are why AARP Oregon and other organizations sponsored a bill in the Oregon legislature to stop age discrimination in employment. Unfortunately, even with wide-spread support, our bill died without explanation. AARP designed this bill to safeguard you and your family against a form of discrimination that that can touch all individuals as they age.

In a recent AARP Oregon survey of registered voters ages 40 and older, 62% of them indicate they have either seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. We think that’s unacceptable. That’s why the age discrimination legislation is so important.

According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor (BOLI) and Industry, one older worker in Oregon files a report of age discrimination in Oregon every day. And yet, according to our survey, only eight percent of workers file an age discrimination complaint with BOLI, their HR Dept. or the EEOC.

Age discrimination is not just perception. According to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, job candidates between the ages of 29 and 31 received 35% more callbacks than candidates ages 64 to 66, despite having similar qualifications and skills on more than 40,000 dummy applications.

In Umatilla County more than 15% of citizens are 65 and older, with this age group growing every day. These are people who have contributed to their communities and many of them want to stay engaged in the workplace and have experience, commitment and skills to offer employers.

It’s time to fight back and say that in our state, we don’t tolerate sexism, racism or ageism. All forms of discrimination must be rooted out of our society.

Ruby Haghton-Pitts

AARP Oregon State Director, Clackamas

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