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Age discrimination may play a part in Michigan unemployment

The job market in the Detroit area continues to be weaker than it is in the nation as a whole, and many Michigan residents have been out of work for a long time. This creates a dangerous situation, especially for workers over age 50.

State and federal laws are designed to prohibit many kinds of employers from discriminating against workers because of their age. But experts say it happens all the time.

Last year, nearly half of the state's unemployed were without a job for at least six months. Studies show that even as the job market nationwide starts to pick up pace, opportunities dry up for those who have been out of work for more than half a year.

Statistics from last month show that unemployed U.S. workers under age 55 had been out of work an average of 34.3 weeks. For workers over 55, that average time was 44.9 weeks.

With so many people looking for employment, employers can afford to be choosy when hiring people. Experts say that employers may be slower to hire older workers due to their own prejudices.

Sometimes, these employers may not even realize that they are discriminating against a job candidate based on age. Nonetheless, they may be crossing the line into unlawful age discrimination.

Workers who have been discriminated against due to age during the hiring process or at work may be compensated for damages such as lost wages and benefits. In some cases, the worker may be reinstated or promoted at work.

Age discrimination cases can be difficult for a worker to win in court. Not every kind of employer or job is covered by the age discrimination laws. Even when the employer and job are covered, it isn't easy to prove that an employer made a decision based on age, and not some lawful reason. But the law is designed to prohibit this kind of discrimination and to make sure that those who are damaged by it are compensated.

Source: MLive, "Michigan gets caught in troubling jobless trend," Rick Haglund, March 14, 2013

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