In an article for Modern Restaurant Management, Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Tim Garrett discussed ways for employers to respond to the growing age gap in the restaurant industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, older adults have been the fastest-growing cohort of employees, and mismanaging those workforce dynamics can pose some compliance issues and concerns for employers.

Although most employers know that age is a protected category and there is no “mandatory retirement age,” compliance issues may arise when employers are careless in the ways they address performance management in older employees. “The employer should not be hesitant to raise the concerns about performance, but should not make stereotypical assumptions that the performance issues are related to age,” Tim said.

Additionally, employers should remain vigilant to “ageist” comments, such as “OK Boomer,” just as they would to racist or sexist language. Tim explained that employers and managers should affirm that older workers can be and often are valuable additions to a team or workplace. As such, the employer can cultivate a culture of respect among coworkers so that the younger workforce can see the worth in an older coworker who has valuable life experience.

As a best practice, employers should have training in place for managers and supervisors on HR policies, discrimination laws, harassment, etc. Recent EEOC guidance has indicated that most employers’ training programs are not effective in reducing instances of workplace discrimination and harassment, but Tim clarified that the main problem is rules-based training, in which the rules and outlines are presented but often lack engagement with and understanding among the group. On the other hand, relationship-based training leads to greater engagement and focuses on the worth of all persons despite differences and, in fact, seeks to reinforce the value of such differences. “In this way, working together is promoted to accomplish much in efficient, effective, and quality customer service, and in turn, a healthier work environment,” explained Tim.

The full article, “Responding to the Growing Age-Gap in the Workplace,” was published by Modern Restaurant Management on February 19 and is available online.