Separate research published recently by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank found that in a widespread test using fabricated resumes, fictional older workers were 30 percent less likely to be contacted after applying for jobs. Fictional older women had it even worse, being 47 percent less likely to get a "callback."
Several forces are conspiring to ensure that many Americans have to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. People are living longer, their retirement savings are inadequate, and Social Security reforms are almost certainly going to require it. The San Francisco Fed says that the share of the older-65 working population is projected to rise sharply — from about 19 percent now to 29 percent in the year 2060.
Online job-hunting tools should be making things easier for older employment seekers, and it can. Indeed.com, which claims to list 16 million jobs worldwide, currently lists 158,000 openings under its "Part Time Jobs, Senior Citizen Jobs" category. Monster.com, which claims 5 million listings, has a special home page for "Careers at 50+."
In other ways, however, online job sites can cut older workers out. Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form.
Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said.
"Today's workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s," Madigan said. "Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy."
The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites: Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.
CareerBuilder called the issue a mistake.