Opposing the Culture of Decline
Easing Into Elderhood

Age: the Last Acceptable Discrimination

As she writes this, Crabby Old Lady’s bile is overflowing big time. Read on:

“Before he turned to hair dye, the first words Levy heard in a recent job interview with a telecom company manager were ‘the average age around here is 28.’”
“…in the middle of a day of [job interview] meetings, the hiring manager abruptly asked Klos to complete an application form, and specifically directed him to include his high school graduation date...

“The job offer dried up within 24 hours. Klos…mentioned the story to his daughter, who had recently completed a personnel-management course at her firm.

“…Her jaw dropped open. ‘Oh my God, they just taught us to do that.’ In her management course, Klos’ daughter was told to insist on high school graduation dates on applications forms. ‘This is our vehicle for making sure that you don’t inadvertently hire older employees,’ Klos’ daughter was told by her company.”

These two incidents are from a story published Monday at marketwatch.com which is subtitled, “Anecdotal evidence suggests age bias in hiring thrives,” and Crabby is grateful to see someone in the press paying attention to what any job seeker older than 50 runs into every day, and even if the reporter displayed her own age bias in burying the lead. Read on.

“’The concept that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is total nonsense,’ says Paul Boymel, an attorney in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s office of legal counsel.

“’Every study has shown that, at least where heavy manual labor is not involved, older workers outperform younger workers as a class, with far less absenteeism, far less hopping from job to job, better work ethics,’ he said. But ‘not everybody’s gotten that message.’”

As to the argument that older workers cost companies more to employ than younger workers, Crabby would like to send the bean counters back to accounting school for a refresher course. You cannot honestly place higher salary and benefits costs into the debit column without adding the savings of higher productivity, fewer errors and better judgment of older workers into the asset column.

That said, read on.

According to Renee Ward, founder of seniors4hire.com, who was interviewed for the MarketWatch story, human resources managers don’t even bother to hide their bias.

“At a recent conference, Ward asked a question of some personnel managers: If you posted a job requiring three to five years’ experience, would you deny the job to a candidate with 10 years experience solely because of those extra years?

“The consensus was yes, she said. ‘An older person can’t do this job,’ a 30-something manager at a perfume company told Ward. ‘She was just blatant about it,’ Ward said, noting that three other people at the table agreed with the manager.”

There is a little experiment we occasionally perform at Time Goes By to check if we are being overly sensitive about age discrimination. We substitute the word "black" for "older" to see how objectionable - and illegal - it might be. Let's try it here: "A black person can't do this job."

Imagine how different the MarketWatch story would be if the the 30-something manager had said that to the reporter: It would have been the headline - "XYZ Perfume Company Admits Racial Bias in Hiring." The reporter would have named the young manager's employer who would then make a showcase firing of the woman in a scramble to uphold the company's reputation, and Jesse Jackson would be all over the story, demanding an official investigation of the company.

But when older people are the target of bias, it is reported only as shameful, not important enough to name names.

Age is the last acceptable discrimination. It openly abounds in corporate America and if anyone ever again suggests Crabby Old Lady is imagining it in her job search, she swears she’ll smack ‘em.

Comments

"she swears she’ll smack ‘em."
...and a fair few of us will hopefully be holding them down while you set about the task...
Wow!!!!! Whilst knowing it's there, this still has the power to stun.
Perhaps the reporter should be sent a copy of your column to see if they follow it up having thought about it again???

Above posted by me - just forgot my details - oops!

Age may be the last acceptable, but I bet a close second is still gender discrimination...

Given the above, the Gray Ceiling is especially low for older women. I wonder what the younger HR people of XYZ Perfume Company would say when asked at what age they plan to retire? 35?

As I set out to apply for a new job recently I was given all sorts of advice from kindly friends who feared my situation. My situation being that I am closer to 60 by being 56 next month! I was a basket case by the time they were through with me.

Things that were said to me for example were: "You had better dye your hair," "At least put your hair back so that it doesn't make you look old," "Make sure you put on make-up that hides those wrinkles!"

Well, I left my hair down, wild and free and as gray as it is naturally. And I still don't wear make-up. But I went into the interviews filled with dread and trepidation. When I was accepted at a number of different places I sobbed with relief. Not only because I was glad to receive a job but mainly because I feared so much that I wouldn't because of my age.

I don't know about "smackin' 'em" but I surely understand Crabby's "bile" about this.

You make me happy that I am self-employed. I also work part-time for a man who is 12 years younger than I, and I know he only cares about how the work is done, not the age of the person doing it. I hear more about men having the problem - but it is surely just as hard on women. It's too bad, as I can work circles around 30-somethings and often do!

At 42, I am "lucky" in that I can easily pass for 10 to 15 years younger, BUT I have many times been confronted with ageism in sheer reaction to the number of years I have been alive. At one particular interview, the mood was light and airy, we were all joking with each other and I had a real feeling of being "one of the gang". The woman interviewing me was 31. I was feeling so comfortable that when the conversation turned to favorite childhood TV shows, I had no qualms about "outing" myself about the decade I grew up in. In a spilt-second the mood of the room changed. Clearly the interview was over now that they had figured out that I was (shock, gasp) in my forties. But how do you prove something like this? And who do you prove it to? Everything they had loved about me was still there - it's just that it had been there for 10 years longer than they thought. I feel like starting a counter-revolution and marching the streets with signs saying "Never trust anyone under 35"!!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)