Since 1967 in the U.S., The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has made it unlawful to discriminate against employees and job applicants age 40 and older with respect to any term, condition or privilege of employment including hiring, firing, compensation, training, benefits, promotion and job assignments.
By federal statute then, the burden is on employers, recruiters, career counselors, hiring managers, human resources offices, etc. to treat older adults no differently from younger ones. But you wouldn't know that from the offensive job search advice that universally spews forth from employment “experts.”
Most recently, in a story titled, (with some misrepresentation of the content) Turning One's Age into a Job-Market Asset, The Washington Post tacitly acknowledges, supports and perpetuates age discrimination:
- “...don't walk in looking old. Walk in looking young...”
- ”...people seem more intelligent if they talk more quickly...”
- ”...buy new glasses – no aviators or oversize ones, please...
- ”...consider coloring [your] hair if it's gray.”
- ”...don't give away your age by saying exactly how long you have been in your field.”
Gail Geary, identified in the story as an Atlanta career counselor, goes further:
“You may want to model yourself after a successful 30- or 35-year-old, she said, with a wardrobe and credentials that are current.” [And further]
“'Ask your children or grandchildren what they think...if they say it's hip, you know you're moving along.'”
Oh, yeah. I'm going to take fashion advice from young men who wear their jeans hanging off their butts and young women who show up at work with four inches of bare midriff on display.
The only conclusion to be made from this advice, is that unless you deny your valuable experience and knowledge, and remake yourself into a grotesque facsimile of a 30-year-old, you are unemployable.
Far from turning one's age into an “asset,” as the story headline purports, these advisers are complicit in encouraging employers to break the law by sending them tarted-up job applicants whose goal is to deceive their potential employers.
Oddly, too, in a journalism environment that for years has operated on the assumption that there is an argument to offset even the most heinous point of view (on the other hand, Hitler loved dogs), the reporter, Vickie Elmer, provides nothing to counter her “expert” sources, implicitly accepting the existence of age discrimination in the workplace while noting, without comment, that age discrimination legal complaints rose by 29 percent in 2008.
Let us be clear: employers who reject job applicants because they are old are breaking the law. Only an attorney could say if career counselors, recruiters, etc. who promote deception by job applicants are operating illegally too, but they are certainly skirting the law.
More, in today's devastating economic environment, these advisers are repellent. Millions of elders have been stripped of 30, 40, 50 percent and more of the savings they they worked hard to accumulate for their retirement over a lifetime of employment. As Dean Baker noted in a recent story at alternet,
“...the recent collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting stock market plunge have reduced the wealth of older workers and retirees by close to $15 trillion."
In case you skipped over that, it is 15 trillion dollars (more than seven times the astronomical U.S. budget deficit projected for this year) in collective loss to retirees, many of whom have been forced back into the workplace in minimum wage jobs such as bagging groceries to afford to eat.
Having been robbed of their savings, old people are also being robbed of their dignity by asinine know-nothings who tell them all they need to do to get a job is dye their hair, talk fast and lie. This advice is not only insulting, it reeks with discrimination.
It is long past time for the media to tell the real story - that employers, with the collusion of the job search industry, regularly break the law - and to demand that the burden for fair hiring practices be placed where it belongs, on the people doing the hiring.
(Hat tip to Marian of And the Beat Goes On.)
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson writes of Spring Love Among the Elderly.]