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Age Discrimination in America - Elderly Workers
Is It Age Discrimination?
I only work weekends, as many of you may already know. As a person who greatly values personal relationships I try to remember what’s going on in the lives of coworkers from week to week - without actually seeing or talking to these wonderful people. One of the newest additions to the department also works only weekends opposite my shift. We get to say hello and goodbye to one another two days a week. Of course we do hang over into each others shifts quite a bit and chat because we hit it off really well.
This newer employee’s name is Ann. She is an older woman, almost retirement age, who just moved back to Cleveland, Ohio after being gone for 45 years. Ann moved back to be with her aging parents who now need help. She left behind a career as Memphis, Tennessee Public School District Transportation Supervisor, a beautiful home, and all her friends. She is working part-time security while she looks for something a little more in-line with her future goals. While we were talking last week Ann mentioned that she’d had an interview for a temporary assignment of which she was very excited. I reminded myself all week “ask first thing Saturday evening if Ann heard about the position; ask first thing Saturday evening if Ann heard about the position”. Well I asked and guess what, Ann heard alright. She heard that the temporary position had been withdrawn from the temp agencies queue and that her resume would remain on file. Then she was told she’d be contacted if anything became available. Case closed. Ann is saddened and discouraged because she thinks she is being faced with age discrimination. Ann said that during her telephone interview the interviewer kept mentioning how impressive Ann’s work history and education were. But once Ann got in for a face to face interview everything started to go downhill. The conversation got me thinking and wondering.
Ann is not the first older adult I have met who thinks age discrimination is a huge problem for older working Americans. Another example is a man I met 10 years ago named Mike. At the time Mike was working as a gas station attendant - he was also retirement age, 68 years old. It turns out Mike was a retired CPA who was laid off a few years before he started the gas station position. He had spent months preparing a resume and updating his skill set in hopes of finding another accounting position. He remembered sitting in numerous interviews with college graduates and feeling confident that his experience would help him. Nope, instead he was told he was too experienced or overqualified time and time again. Mike took that to mean he was too old and finally gave up looking - only to accept the gas station job.
Another example is a man named Vinny who did time in the military, got an education in computer sciences and worked for the local newspaper – who maintained Vinny’s certification and training. Sadly, Vinny lost his job when the newspaper downsized in 1998. Vinny immediately started applying for positions and showing up to interviews. Like Mike, Vinny was confident that his experience and training would land him a job before the younger candidates. Vinny started getting discouraged after hearing how over-qualified he was too. Vinny’s wife even decided to try to make her husband look younger by coloring his graying hair – hoping to give him more of a chance during interviews. Eventually Vinny gave up and accepted a security position making a third less than he made at the newspaper.
My question is this, are older Americans really facing job discrimination or are they simply too sensitive to the rejection and use age as a factor?