Workers under the age of 40 comprise 65.7 percent of reported work injuries in the state of Nebraska according to recently released statistics by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court.
Put another way, Millennials are the generation that suffer the most work injuries in this state. Viewed one way, the fact that so many young people get hurt on the job belies the assumption that young people are lazy or soft. Much like the misconception that all blue collar workers are white, there is an assumption that young people don’t do blue collar work.
But viewed another way, negative stereotypes about millennials jibe with perception held by many that injured workers are just trying to get out of work or “milk the system”. In that mindset, millennial employees would be more likely to claim workers compensation because workers’ compensation claims are almost per se fraudulent.
In Nebraska and most states injured employees have some protection against discrimination if they file a workers’ compensation claim. (Although it is a close issue as to whether an injured worker is a member of a protected class or engaging in a protected activity or both) But workers under the age of 40 in Nebraska and in most other states have no protection against discrimination based on age.
The fact that stereotyping young people is legally permissible means that respectable business types have no problem with sharing humor like the “Millennial Job Interview” video that made the rounds on the internet. I doubt that any video that sterotyped a protected class like this video stereotyped millenials would have openly shared without rebuke.
I suspect allowing discrimination against young people negatively impacts terms and conditions of employment for young people. Lawmakers in Canada, where age discrimination laws generally kick in at age 18, seem to think it does. I also wonder whether negative stereotypes about millennials would lead employers to discount safety complaints from younger workers or lead them to believe that younger workers exaggerate the extent of their injuries.
Stereotypes about lazy young people aren’t new to millennials. Future generations including, Generation Z , will likely be subject to negative stereotyping. Human nature may not change, but laws controlling discrimination may force employees to change their behavior. Laws outlawing age discrimination against young people may also promote workplace safety as young people suffer the bulk of work injuries.
At least one millennial in Nebraska will have an opportunity to shape workplace law in Nebraska. Lincoln Senator Matt Hansen was elected to chair the Business and Labor Committee in the Nebraska legislature. Hansen has a good record on workers issues and I believe he will work hard to preserve and maybe even expand employee rights in Nebraska in this important position.