Stop Discriminating Against Me, You Hateful Ageists

Today is my birthday. I am 40. I’ve been planning this post for the past year, and curses, Jon Hyman, had to go and steal my idea. Turns out Jon is two days older than I am, so I’ve been discriminating against him for two whole days already.

I love Jon’s idea of raising the age for ADEA discrimination to 50. Why? Because 40 is NOT OLD.

But, I’m going to to go a step further. Let’s abolish it altogether.

Gasp! I realize that now I’m protected by this law. (Or, rather, I would be if I lived in the US, which I don’t, but let’s pretend.) Does anyone out there really think that yesterday I was just fine but today I’m an old lady incapable of new ideas? (Well, perhaps my children.)

Age discrimination is out there. I totally believe it is. But I don’t think the way to fix it is to give special protection to older people, like me and Jon, just because we’ve managed to have more birthdays. We also have more experience and can navigate the workforce far better than a 22 year old.

The reason people discriminate on age isn’t because they are scared of a number. It’s because the older people are more likely to be making more money and are less likely to want to do things differently. The former is easily shown, the latter  is anecdotal. People believe the latter, anyway and we know that people react on their on version of reality rather than the truth. (And yes, I see the drop off in income at 65 and older. Duh. People retire and stop getting paycheck. Note, their retirement income is still higher than people in the under 25 group. Also, take a look at net worth. There’s still a drop off at 65, but not a big one.)

Why do we need government looking over the shoulder of business owners? Instead, make it as easy as possible to start and run a business. Let those of us who are old easily prove how awesome we are.

Because, as far as I’m concerned, people born in February of 1973 are just about the most awesome people ever. You all wish you were in the club with me and Jon.

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28 thoughts on “Stop Discriminating Against Me, You Hateful Ageists

    1. Ha! Really? That’s so funny. I didn’t write it up before, but I’ve really been thinking about it and looking forward to it.

  1. Happy Birthday; mine is tomorrow! I will be interested to see the type of feedback you receive on this one. I am very worried about how I will manage to stay in the workplace, based on the age discrimination I have seen so far. Planning to do all I can to stay current in my field and present as youthful an image as is possible; but time is not on our side, and I will need to work for as long as I physically and mentally can.

    1. I’m interested as well. Staying current is really the key, I think.

      We’ll see what people say.

  2. Happy Birthday! My big 4-0 is in 5 weeks, so I feel your pain. I still feel like a 30 year old, until I hang out with a bunch of 30 year olds that is.

    I’m in Canada and I don’t believe that we have a corresponding piece of legislation. I should probably look into that.

    1. You are almost as cool as Jon and I, but not quite. :>)

      I don’t know about Canada either.

  3. A quick aside: “the reason people discriminate on age” can be very industry-specific, and some industries may reasonably need more (or less!) protection against this sort of thing.

    1. Sure, there are industries that are worse than others. Go out there and prove people wrong.

  4. The law isn’t for reasonable people like you. It isn’t for the people who are hiring younger people because they’re cheap. It also isn’t for people who are looking to diversify their thinking.

    It’s for that old guy in the corner office that say, “I don’t want to interview anyone over 35; they’re past their prime”. Those people still exist, and pretending that they don’t is a pollyanna approach to discrimination. 40 is just the watermark for this particular law. There are all sorts of laws around the country, with different watermarks, to combat different types of age discrimination – in Atlanta, it’s illegal to discriminate against a man between the ages of 19-25.

    It’s all about those folks who are making the decision based on age, not about those who are making the decision (hire, fire, promote, train, etc.) on other factors.

    1. First of all, I don’t think that happens often.

      Second, lower the barriers to entry for businesses so if it does happen, those it happens to can go out and compete against these people and prove them wrong.

      It’s not the 40-60 year olds who have low household income. Why are we giving them special protection?

  5. Happy birthday! I’m 47 so I’m cooler than both of you. Nyaaah!! 🙂

    My new job is very sensitive to discrimination. It’s a huge company and it has a whole section of orientation on diversity. I see all ages wandering around my office, and there are offices all over the country, so I’m sure the other demographics vary a lot more than in this rather homogenous city. I was very careful to keep my hair colored during my job hunt, though.

    1. Keeping your hair colored certainly doesn’t hurt. But it sounds like your new company is going to not have problems in this area.

  6. Age discrimination is very real., very.

    In my 50s now, I mostly send out my resume with my graduation dates (oh so very last century dates) and I get less calls than when I send it out without graduation dates. (removing the dates is something a lot of recruiters insist upon. I try to talk them out of it though)

    But, here’s the thing. If a company (or hiring manager) is than stupid that they use age (or whatever “protected class) as a reason NOT to hire than I really don’t want to work for them. And I would hope that they are very up front about this stupidity so that we can all avoid doing business with them.

    Happy Birthday! and welcome to the “downhill slope”!

    1. Well, that’s my opinion as well. I really don’t want to work with/for someone who doesn’t want me to work there.

  7. Happy Birthday! (Belatedly)

    I don’t live in the US either, but the weirdest aspect of this age discrimination thing is that it’s 100% BACKWARDS. Anti-discrimination laws are supposed to help individuals in low-power groups, such as protecting racial minorities from racial bias in interviews with majority interviewers.
    Age discrimination would only make sense if younger people were routinely in hire/fire situations over older people, which is NOT THE CASE. How often does a 25 year old get to fire a 40 year old? Rarely, compared to the overwhelmingly more common situation of 40+ middle managers being able to hire and fire younger people.
    This isn’t to say that the opposite type of law would really help, though.

    TL;DR Age discrimination laws are silly because they’re backwards.

  8. Suzanne, i know that you believe that companies should pay employees based on market value and value provided. The net worth argument is a bright red herring. Lets face it, after 20 years of saving the newest employees will also have greater net worth. Your argument also ignores that older employees are very likely supporting aged parents with health issues and teenagers/college students who cost a lot more than 6 year olds. In short, the older employees salary is supporting a lot more people than the younger ones. So I think we need to drop the net worth argument. It is irrelevant to discrimination.

    The issue then becomes discrimination based on age (not experience) and I have absolutely seen it. How about the training programs on new technology that only allow younger workers? What a great way to ensure that older workers become irrelevant! I many time see training programs for the younger workforce. But shouldn’t the company want high performers at all levels?

    And I have unfortunately been told by younger workers that my knowledge is obsolete. This, simply by my age and never examining my résumé. Really. It doesn’t matter that I am considered a expert in my field? Or how about those battle scars – knowledge of how projects can fail (and how to prevent that from happening)

    Sorry Suzanne. Unfortunately, we need this as much as we need sex and race based laws. Because people are still bigoted.

    1. I agree that age discrimination exists. I also agree that race and sex discrimination exists. I don’t think laws fix it.

      First of all, it’s extremely easy to discriminate against anyone for any reason in the hiring process. It’s very difficult for any person to win a failure to hire lawsuit without the hiring manager saying something directly like, “We don’t hire people who are [in whatever protected class].”

      The problems come with firing and disciplining, where the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that they are not discriminating instead of the other way around. The result is people are less willing to hire people in these protected classes because they are more difficult to discipline or terminate.

      Easy out=easy in.

      Additionally, the very set up of the workplace makes it difficult for older workers. Not because people are scared of older people but because the workforce tends to be in a pyramid. We want people who are hard working and want to climb up. But, there are fewer spaces at the top then at the bottom. If you’ve got 20 years of experience and you’re not a VP, people think there is something wrong with you. But, even if you are capable of being a VP, there are far fewer slots than there are people with experience.

      Age discrimination laws do not change any of that.

      Additionally, I have received numerous emails from people who state things like, “I’m being discriminated against because I’m old. I just have 5/8/10 years until retirement. I just want to do my job and go home.” Super. But managers don’t necessarily want people who want to do their jobs and go home. They want people who love their jobs and are looking for opportunities for growth and development. These people are shooting themselves in the foot by “just wanting to do their jobs.”

      Now, reality is, I think there’s a lot to be gained by having a core set of employees who just want to do their jobs and go home. We need people like this. Unfortunately, it’s not what managers like. It’s not about age discrimination at all.

      Remove the laws and allow people to treat their older workers the same way they treat their younger workers and you’ll find less barriers to entry then you have now.

  9. In the US one large reason for age discrimination is that health insurance premiums are higher for older employees. As many employers provide insurance as a benifit, this increases the cost of older employees to the employer.

    1. In large companies, individual managers are not tasked with managing the health insurance premiums and they have no clue about those costs, so large companies are not discriminating on that issue.

      Smaller companies may well be, but I don’t know enough about health care plans to comment.

  10. First of all, happy belated birthday! I hope you’re not as traumatized as I was when I turned 40. Of course that was 14 years ago, and now that I am in my mid 50’s I am suitably jealous of you young 40 year olds!
    That being said, I am newly employed after 10 months of searching. In my case, I went from being at a director level in my old job to a lower managerial position.
    What I do realize is that the vast majority of my coworkers are considerably younger than me, but I have fit in quite well so far. The major reason for my fairly easy transition is that after 10 months of inactivity, I found myself energized. While I am technically a generalist, I have been heavily involved in employee relations so far and I actually have a blast dealing with all the curve balls that get thrown your way when you’re in such a position.
    There is where I think the problem is. There certainly is a perception that older workers will lack the latest knowledge in their field (I think that current certifications go a long way in changing that particular perception) or that they will simply lack the energy to keep up with the always described “fast paced environment. (Honestly, in nearly 30 years of work I have never seen a company that brags of its slow paced environment!) But what my current employer seems to realize, as did a number of other perspective employers that I interviewed with, was that age equals experience which equals a very flat learning curve.
    I do agree that there is discrimination out there, but I am simply not convinced that it is as rampant as discrimination laws would have us believe.

    1. That is true! Even though some companies are, decidedly, slow paced, they will never admit that.

      And the move from director to manager really needs to happen frequently, just because there are more manager slots than director ones. The darn pyramid is out to get all of us.

  11. I heard birthdays are good for your health, the more you get them the longer you live. Happy Birthday!

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