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New Colorado age discrimination law could help fill in-demand jobs

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Colorado employers will soon be barred from asking questions that could reveal someone's age on a job application. 

Colorado lawmakers passed the Job Application Fairness Act in the last session to address age discrimination, which AARP projects could cost the nation nearly $4 trillion in lost productivity by mid-century

Andrea Kuwik - senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center - said in addition to highly honed skill sets, older workers also bring hard-won wisdom that comes with years of experience.

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"Whenever we have multi-generational workplaces - so, both older workers, younger workers, middle-age workers - there has been research that shows that increases productivity," said Kuwik. "It benefits the employer, it benefits the workplace across the board."

Continuing to work is a necessity for the vast majority of Americans who have zero or insufficient retirement savings. 

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, white baby boomers own over 90 percent of the generation's financial assets. Just 3 percent are owned by Black or Hispanic boomers.

According to AARP, over six in ten workers age 40 and older have seen or experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace. The growing use of computer algorithms also makes it easier to weed out older job candidates. 

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Kuwik said many workers who turn 65 - the age society says it's time slow down and enjoy one's 'golden years' - want to remain productive members of society.

"But we also know that a lot of people are saying, 'I want to continue to work, because I find that really meaningful and really valuable. It makes me feel like I am contributing to my community,'" said Kuwik.

Colorado is currently facing a worker shortage crisis for high-demand jobs - including in education, early childhood education, forestry, and nursing. 

Kuwik said the new law could help ease that burden by helping more qualified applicants get their foot in the door.

"But we also have these shortages of in-demand workers, if we think about health care, etc," said Kuwik. "And we know that older workers are both able and willing, and really talented and really skilled, to be in these positions."