Monday, June 27, 2011

Age Discrimination

Recent news articles presented the fact that the older unemployed are finding it harder to reenter the workforce.  In one television interview a man told the reporter that one company directly admitted to him that he had all the qualifications and experience and if he were 20 years younger, the job would be his.  This is not only illegal, but a distinct failure in the dimension of critical thinking.  It’s illogical and probably a disservice to the owners and customers of the company.

Consider that until recently it was not unusual for a company to have a turnover rate in the area of 20% - much higher in some cases, slightly lower in others depending on the work.  (I say until recently because at normal unemployment when workers are less scared of leaving, the companies must treat them well to retain them.  These days, I’m afraid, it seems to be different, but 20% is probably a reasonable long-term assumption.) 

At 20% turnover the company is losing it’s entire workforce, on average, every 5 years.  Even a person 55, who expects to retire at 62, would have a longer than average tenure.  In this economy I would be willing to bet on any 55 year-old staying until retirement with a company willing to hire him or her and being a loyal employee for those seven or more years.  Furthermore there are studies that show that older workers spend more time on the job, with fewer sick days, no loss due to maternity leave, fewer interruptions with calls from the daycare or school, etc.  Add in the mentoring potential, and arguments in favor of age discrimination become even weaker.  (Included are links to just a couple of articles supporting this position.)  The above company and many others exhibit behavior due to their unwritten policies that seem both irrational and not in their own best interests – a failure in the dimension of critical thinking.

Reflect on this:  how many other laws are in place, including all other aspects of illegal discrimination, that would be unnecessary if company executives made sound (critical thinking) decisions instead of letting their prejudices short-circuit their brains?  And how many tax dollars would be saved on their development and enforcement?

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