Eradicating Elderly Employees

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Recently, two instructors (Saul Levmore and Martha Nussbaum) from the University of Chicago Law School wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal recommending that the U.S. change the law on age discrimination and employment for various reasons. My favorite reason for changing law and policy is: “the average worker is now retiring later, which means there are fewer jobs for young people.” Funny, I don’t seem to recall any time in my growing up or experiencing in what could be described as my career that the “old people” had to be cleared out for the “young people” in the workplace. This is solid evidence the millennials must be working overtime on taking over the world. Maybe not overtime, because the millennials understand what work-life balance is and playing with the X-box is an important part of life.


Their proposal sounds as if the authors are looking for another crowbar to pry the Baby Boomers even further from the economy so that they can bring in the millennials and make the working world even more sensitive, and genderless, with the essential work/life balance, but I’m sure that if any overtime or really stressful hours are necessary they will be glad to let the Boomers take those assignments. Being close to the graveyard, the Boomers, what is left of them to work, might as well have the graveyard duty.


As stated in the article, “few 80-year-olds are as good at their job as they were in their 50s.” So true, but really, how many 80-year-olds are actually in the workforce? As of 2007, the percentage of workers 75 years of age and older was eight tenths of one percent, or 0.8 %, so the  99.2% of the workforce is really going to have to put their nose to the grindstone to make up for all the work not getting done by the old folks. Certainly a reason to change the law, don’t you think?


Few 20-year-olds are as good as a 30-year-old, or 40 year old, or near as good as a 50ish seasoned veteran, but we need to think of the future. If you want to make the argument that 80 year olds aren’t as good as 50-year-olds, I’m happy to concede the point, but then you must also acknowledge that 20-year-olds are nowhere near as good as 30-year-olds, so they should not even be considered for a position, since they’re going to enter the job and mess up a great deal and, oh, my lord, the phrase no corporation wants to hear anymore “they will need training.” No need for training is yet another reason to hire older, experienced workers, rather than the young bucks who still need to learn the ropes and are likely to make rookie errors. Employers don’t talk about not hiring older workers, they just don’t hire them, all the while complaining that they can’t find any qualified applicants.


The Baby Boomers will begin reaching the age of 70 quite soon, and that demographic bubble in the workforce will grow, so corporate America is looking to head them off at the pass, and just kick the older workers to the side of the road of their careers. It seems that Levmore and Nussbaum are proposing measures supposedly good for aging Baby Boomers, but there are holes in their theory.


The article brings up one of the fears any organization has is when hiring an older person is that they will stay way too long, way past any time that could be described as “productive.” This “stay till they die” mentality makes little sense when one looks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports that on average: “wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2016.” Even if you hire someone in their early sixties, statistically, they will not be working for your firm by the time they are 65 or older, when the average worker stays on the job for 4.2 years.  One of the more profound explanations is where the article wants to stop the retirement at sixty. “The employer is properly concerned that any encouragement to retire will be interpreted as  discrimination on the basis of age.” Whereas, of course, refusing to hire a long-term unemployed older person whose job was exported or declining to hire anyone who made a late career change and earned more education isn’t age discrimination at all. All this, even though any new hire will likely not be with the firm more than four years, be they in their 20s or, God forbid, in their 50s or 60s, according to the statistical data.  The authors want the changes in the law to where an employee and employer to “agree on a retirement age at the start of a new job.” This implies, of course, the employee or the employer knows at what point their productivity will decline. One can think of at least half a dozen diseases that would impede a fresh hire in their twenties, including Multiple Sclerosis, which particularly affects young adults, or psychological disorders like Schizophrenia, whose onset is most likely during late adolescence or young adulthood.


Young adults, the preferred employees of choice, are courting and getting married (though the marriage rate is declining gradually) having children and taking maternity leave, but they are still a better choice over older workers who have had their children and aren’t going through the building a family phase of life. It makes perfect sense to, well, someone anyway. Nonetheless, young people are worth the risk, and the old people, too much of a risk. How could one disagree with such sound reasoning?  More genius of the article: “The recent increase in the median age U.S. retirement age is an unintended consequence of the shift from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans (or no plan at all).” Certainly, the demographics of an aging population, declining or stagnating wages for the last forty-five years, the offshoring of millions of jobs and a sketchy, unpredictable job market would have nothing to do with people having to work more and retire at a later date.
Of course, none of those conditions or scenarios apply if you’re a lawyer, so why bother with any other reasons? It has to be the retirement plans.   The authors use an example of someone over the age of 76 making $200,000 a year, which is less than the 0.8% of the population already referenced, and they should stop receiving Social Security until they stop working. I should hope so. Anyone making $200K a year who claims they need Social Security as well really needs to see a financial advisor. 


They’re lawyers. They see things through the lens of lawyers. The idea of someone making less than $50K is probably unthinkable and unimaginable to them. The idea that older workers must step aside for younger, inexperienced workers sounds more like a rationale for ageism than a plan for development. Corporations of today seek to socialize the cost of training workers, asking the public education systems to invest heavily in equipment and personnel so that the corporations don’t have to spend any money training employees. Corporations, understanding the desperation of states to draw any kind of revenue, hold states at gunpoint, asking for guarantees of tax relief just to locate a facility in that state, which then subsequently closes down the plant and lets everyone go when the markets take a downturn. Great deal. The states give up all the tax revenue and faces paying the unemployment when the plant shuts down.  


The aging population of the U.S. still seeking employment are the Americans who haven’t given up. They haven’t claimed a disability and decided to quit looking for work. They watched working peoples’ wages stagnate while CEO wages soared. They watched jobs drain out of the U.S. into Mexico and Third World countries. They watched Wall Street bankers make outrageous bets and get bailed out by a government that allowed the financial types to take incredible risks and then bailed them out with minimal accountability and consequences. They have watched an inept and irresponsible government allow 11 million illegal immigrants into the very country that many of them had fought and risked their lives for, only to see the millions competing against them in the job market and driving wages down. They watched the well-connected elites and the wealthy gain opportunities because of who they knew and not what they had done, and now they are expected to leave the workforce to “allow young people in” a privilege never offered to them when they were in the same situation.  


America’s economy and wages slide further and further down, and the experienced employees with a track record of making things work are expected to step out of the way for a bunch of greenhorns. Consider how some of the most important CEOs set an example and stepped aside for younger leadership, or not. Jeffrey Immelt was CEO of GE for 17 years, hanging on just three years short of those fabulous twenties that every corporation is looking for in a candidate. Robert Iger is the CEO of Disney, and after his 17 year run it doesn’t appear he’s looking to hand off the leadership to some energy-filled, computer-savvy, non-gender-identified, work-life balance guru twentysomething anytime soon.  In terms of capital, the U.S. is deep in debt that we will never recover from if the concentration of wealth remains in a small percentage while the working poor earn work a full week’s wages and still have to collect welfare to support themselves. Corporate America has decided the most experienced are to be shown the door at a time when the U.S. needs all of the experienced talent it can get, and the HR people keep insisting that there aren’t any qualified candidates applying. It becomes more and more unbelievable every day.  


Stone-Eater Added Oct 7, 2017 - 9:03am
Thanks. The same can be said about Europe.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 9:19am
Thank you Skip and SEF. I'm glad that Skip could find another occupation that suited him. As they say in marketing, "find a need, fill it."
Stone-Eater Added Oct 7, 2017 - 9:22am
No sweat. That situation is one of the reasons I leave Switzerland and go back to Africa besides my love for the people there. Because there I know that I can still be useful at 60.
Dino Manalis Added Oct 7, 2017 - 9:44am
We need a stronger economy with jobs for all of us, including the elderly who understand life is expensive and retirement income is insufficient to maintain their standards of living.  Many people die shortly after they stop working, so work may be considered a life-saver.  We need a consistently strong economy for young and old!
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 9:58am
You are more likely to have a heart attack within 6 months of retiring, what is called a "critical period." My father had his within 6 months of retiring, but made it through for another 30 years or so.
Leroy Added Oct 7, 2017 - 10:16am
It's not much different than when I lived in France.  They offered a retirement package to anyone 55 and older in order to make room for younger employees to solve the unemployment problem.  In effect, retirees received 80% of their pay to sit on their derrieres to make room for younger employees.  The government paid its fair share to make it happen.  Mind you, this was after terminating 10,000 employees a few years earlier.  Did it work?  No.
Meanwhile, in the US, a package was offered under threat that if you didn't volunteer you might be fired.  The company decided whether or not to accept your application.  It was a way around age discrimination because it was open to everyone.  Of course, they only accepted older employees.  The deadwood had already been trimmed at that point.
The US is only catching up to Europe. 
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 10:53am
Thanks for the comments Leroy. Yes, I hear of the "take it or be fired" no option for senior employees in the U.S.  The rest of the world moves ahead of us while we toss talent into the waste basket. Great idea.
Bill H. Added Oct 7, 2017 - 11:36am
I retired back in 2011 but was responsible for hiring Engineers within the company that I worked for (a large communications company). The sense I got was that after the turn of the century, many companies were being pressured by their medical insurance providers to adjust the average employee age to a lower number by slowly eliminating older workers. I also noticed that as this was occurring, the now younger management staff were becoming less tolerant to dealing with older experienced and opinionated people working under them. They essentially wanted to be in total control and have everything done their way, with no challenges or criticism. Of course this also was a result of the new trend to eliminate work/home balance and mold employees into 24/7 servants who even ceased using their vacation time in fear of being looked down upon.
It seems that many of today's managers and VP's are simply judged by how many meetings they can call, how many people attend these meetings, and how many "buzzwords" they can utter during their never-ending barrage of PowerPoint presentations.
George N Romey Added Oct 7, 2017 - 12:28pm
Great article Jeff. The 45 crowd is gotten rid of on pupose then the last to be hired. Many are now in jobs far below their skill level. Many have or are going through the retirement savings.  Too many have become addicted to drugs or committing suicide. Companies used to be proud of their long term employees with considerable experience and wisdom.  Today they are treated like trash.
Leroy Added Oct 7, 2017 - 1:06pm
I don't know, George.  It's been 30 years ago that employees were complaining about not having any chance of advancement after 40.  At 40, you were over the hill.  We are better off today than back then.  Today, 60 is the new 40. 
In much of Asia, you are put to pasture at 55, 50 if you are a woman.  It's difficult to get an expat assignment in China after 55 because you are seen as incapable by the government of providing any usefulness.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Oct 7, 2017 - 1:29pm
I like your writing style Jeff. I have to admit it's better than mine. :-)
There is a squeeze on all workers. The cost of everything in the Free World is going up while income remains stagnant or falls. Government doesn't care about the reality. The Free world is only a slogan used to deceive the people. It's all limited by MONEY, the Image of the Beast.
When I was 24 in Montreal in 1968, my pay package as a salesman for the giant US Multinational, Ingersol-Rand Company, was $25,000 in 1968 Canadian dollars. That bought me the stuff that costs $175,000 in Today's dollars. I didn't think I was 'rich' then.
Today, in my 74th year, I survive on CanaDa's Old Age Security, $1445/month. I save a lot of money not going to bars. A beer cost .50 in those days. My rent, I thank my God, has not gone up for the last 11 years, The rooms are bigger than those in the expensive Condos being built these days.
I have a 3 hour work week, apart from what I do online, 1 hour Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I'm paid cash every Saturday. I'm richer now than I was in the late 60s described in the previous paragraph.
I never would have imagined in my 60s, I would have such a perfect set up for me, at this point in my Life. All my needs and many wants are satisfied. The Lord IS MY Shepherd. I shall not want.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 2:19pm
Bill, I have seen something like that in the 90s. Someone I knew worked for a rather large computer company and he mentioned taking a vacation after several years and they told him that taking a vacation would have a negative impact on his career. This was one of those billion-dollar companies, too.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 2:21pm
Yes, George, I remember when you were taught to respect your elders, now they just get abused and looked down upon. It is sad that the respect the older people have for most everyone is not reciprocated, a poor reflection on our society (and the people that raised them).
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 2:27pm
Thanks for the compliment Ray. If it is any consolation, it's only taken me 50 years to develop this style, if indeed is actually is one. Many of my profs said I was a poor writer, a few said that in a hundred or so more years of practice, I might show some skill in it. I think the only thing we can do as older workers is to find a need and fill it and just go on with things all by ourselves. I have been dipping my feet into private contracting and it has some advantages.
Bill H. Added Oct 7, 2017 - 3:52pm
Jeff - It is very common these days, especially in the tech sector to expect employees to be available 24/7, on weekends, and even when on vacation to attend on-line meetings and conference calls. I would never expect my group of Engineers to adhere to this, but was witnessing other departments fall into this "culture", especially under inexperienced and younger Managers.
I was once asked by a department VP to have my chief microwave Engineer attend a conference call while he was on vacation. I advised the VP of this, and he responded with "You need to get better control of your people" to which I responded "check out which Manager constantly gets the best marks from his staff and has by far the best departmental performance and teamwork record in the company".
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 4:00pm
I would have bought him a copy of the book: "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace" written by Robert Sutton.
Wikipedia describes it this way: "The theme of this book is that bullying behaviour in the workplace worsens morale and productivity. A rule is suggested to screen out the toxic staff—the no asshole rule. The author insists upon use of the word asshole since other words such as bully or jerk "do not convey the same degree of awfulness".[4] In terms of using the word in the book's title, he said "There's an emotional reaction to a dirty title. You have a choice between being offensive and being ignored."
Yes, I have a copy, part of my vast personal library, and was browsing through it recently.
Leroy Added Oct 7, 2017 - 4:29pm
Everybody liked working for the previous IT manager of my former company.  All calls went through him.  He only contacted his guys after hours if he couldn't handle it and it was an emergency.  Any overtime was compensated one way or the other.  He looked after his guys.  The IT guys were a bunch of candyasses to begin with.  They were sticklers for details.  You had to dot every i and cross every t to get them to agree to do anything.  Then, they didn't follow through.  If you reminded them of their commitment, they would request the document they sent you claiming they no longer had it.  There were a couple of good ones that did 80% of the work.  The rest were useless.  Most didn't deserve their manager.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 7, 2017 - 6:02pm
Well, Leroy, it's the old 80/20 rule. You spend 80 percent of your effort on the 20% who refuse to do their job, or they invent reasons why they can't do it and you have to make everything "just perfect" or they don't work. I love the fellows who say they didn't sign something or lost their copy. One of my jobs didn't have a job description and I told them I would not take the job without a description, only because it was a small company and when other people refuse to do their job, you end up doing everything.
Neil Lock Added Oct 8, 2017 - 4:45am
Excellent article, Jeff.
I don't know how things are in the US, but in the UK private contracting in IT - which is what I do - is becoming increasingly difficult. This is because of a bad tax law (IR35) that they have "crack-downs" on every so often. I'm a young 64, and my "retirement plan" has always been to carry on working as long as I can get the job done; so that too is becoming increasingly difficult. But I don't think it's the millennials that are the cause of the problem, it's more the politicians.
Bill H. Added Oct 8, 2017 - 10:46am
Many of the younger Managers were only looking to score points for themselves at the expense of their staff. They never praised their employees for doing a great job, but constantly hounded them for the smallest mistakes (which are of course part of the learning process). They would also take all of the credit when things went good, and of course point the finger at others when they went bad. When it came to communicating with these Managers, everything was done by email. They had no concept or ability to discuss matters face to face. Some would even (believe it or not) perform employee performance reviews via phone, and this was a stretch for them. I'm sure if they could, they would even conduct performance reviews via email if they were able to get away with it. I'll bet they would end of Cc'ing every other Manager in the office afterwards with the results of the poor guy's performance review (and of course it would include an Excel graph showing the proper "performance metrics".
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 8, 2017 - 12:36pm
Thank you Neil. I hope that you can do what you like for as long as you can.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 8, 2017 - 12:39pm
Gosh Bill, your description sounds like about 50% of the managers I have had in my career. What really made me angry was taking credit for my solutions. When I brought that up to the president of the firm, he said they were "just being competitive." Here I thought the competition was from outside the company, not inside. Silly me.
Bill H. Added Oct 8, 2017 - 3:44pm
Competition in the workplace kills teamwork.
Saint George Added Oct 8, 2017 - 6:46pm
What really made me angry was taking credit for my solutions.
In other words, your genius was neither duly recognized nor compensated.
All disgruntled lefties feel the same way. That's the main reason (along with their moral narcissism) they're on the left.
Bill H. Added Oct 9, 2017 - 1:11am
Amazing how the box people can politicize virtually anything!
Shane Laing Added Oct 9, 2017 - 3:57am
New managers and their blue sky thinking and the corporate bean counters, grrrr hate them all.
Leroy Added Oct 9, 2017 - 6:52am
"Many of the younger Managers were only looking to score points for themselves at the expense of their staff. They never praised their employees for doing a great job, but constantly hounded them for the smallest mistakes (which are of course part of the learning process)."
Most of the young managers I have been exposed to have been pretty decent.  I understand that they are just trying to get ahead.  They have been quick to praise and encourage others to praise their colleagues when they do something good.  They are also, like you said, looking to score points and they will do it at your expense, if necessary.  If there is any question to be answered or work to be volunteered for, they are first to raise their hand.  It makes the older workers want to vomit.  Their motives are so transparent.  But, I realize they are just trying to get ahead.  There are two differences with managers of the past.  They won't push back against their managers when they do stupid stuff.  In an example fo the former, a couple of decades ago, an edict came down that all employees must report all traffic violations to their manager.  About half the managers pushed back and refused to do it.  The younger managers today wouldn't hesitate.  They would relish in being efficient in turning their subordinates in, bucking for a promotion.  In an example of the latter, a younger manager forced me to get quotations to have equipped built in another country just to show that he was trying to save money.  He agreed with me why we shouldn't do it but still required me to do it.  We had already established a best value country.  It was twenty-two pieces of equipment valued at only a quarter million dollars.  There were fourteen different pieces.   That meant I would have to learn fourteen different dossiers, find a qualified, mind-reading foreign supplier that could build it in time and build it cheaper, and then I would have to follow the construction.  Since it is not our core business, our dossiers are notoriously incomplete.    Keep in mind we had recently done this before.  It was all to make him look good.  It was a waste of my precious time, not to mention it was a side job for me, one he was supposed to do himself.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Oct 9, 2017 - 7:39am
Jeff, what happened to my reply to George writing this?  "All disgruntled lefties feel the same way. That's the main reason (along with their moral narcissism) they're on the left." 
It's gone.
George N Romey Added Oct 9, 2017 - 11:12am
Younger people have not been taught to think for themselves.  They are taught all answers come from technology not their brain. As a result they lack commonsense. 
Bill H. Added Oct 9, 2017 - 11:45am
George, you are correct. Just as many in society these days, technology is being substituted for rational thinking, reasoning, and the application of "gut feel" that was used during more successful eras. This is resulting in the culture of many companies to believe that creating competition among their employees will help them get ahead. I witnessed this within my former company and several others that we did business with. The end result was a total loss of teamwork and moral. Also, the turnover rate of employees skyrocketed, resulting in a staff of inexperienced employees and a major increase in the training budget. What used to be considered some of the best companies to work for in the industry became the one's to avoid.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Oct 9, 2017 - 12:00pm
I've said it before on this and many other sites, we have smart phones and dumb people!
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Oct 9, 2017 - 12:57pm
George, your name doesn't appear in the comments on Jeffery Kelly's article, A Ghetto By Any Other Name
Stone-Eater Friedli wrote the following in that discussion that relates to your comment. I understood it as being close to reality.
BTW: Humans are NOT capable to understand the world in the short life span they have. Nature did not foresee mental progress. If it would, it would accept that people who are old and wise can live longer to have an impact on future. They can only advise the young, but they are, by nature, bound to fail - because experience is a condition to get "wise". And youth + experience is simply not possible.
The Human Condition is such that we are born into this material world toothless, dependant and vulnerable, having to wear diapers. We leave this world toothless, dependant and vulnerable, having to wear diapers.
What we do within that full circle, determines whether we ascend to a higher plane, or are sent back to try again, until we learn from our mistakes.
The only thing I take exception to in SE's comment is this;
Nature did not foresee mental progress.
Just as a SIGN, a SYMBOL, or an ALLEGORY, the story of
THE TOWER OF BABEL & THE BEGINNING OF NATIONS of some 4,500 years in Human History disproves that theory. Today Humans have a window on the World and the Stars with the ISS.
But you,  Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12 from some 2600 years ago.
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Ecclesiastes 12 from 3000 years ago.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 9, 2017 - 4:34pm
Ray, I don't believe I have deleted anything, I apologize if I did, I rarely do, but some of these trolls (not you) are unbearable. As long as it is relevant and civil it stays.
Ray Joseph Cormier Added Oct 9, 2017 - 5:10pm
George this is how you see it? "All disgruntled lefties feel the same way. That's the main reason (along with their moral narcissism) they're on the left."
What about the disgruntled righties who put Trump in power, sharing Trump's moral narcissism?
If the left is disgruntled and the right is disgruntled. it's a SIGN the system is on the verge of collapse again.
Part I was in the last months of Bush's 8th year, with the Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour in September of 2008. It was the Writing on the Wall the World saw for the 1st Time at the Same Time even though it's not recognized as such
Trump just rescinded the few regulations that were put in place after the fact by Obama to prevent it from happening again.
Part II could be terminal. It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN?
George N Romey Added Oct 9, 2017 - 8:57pm
Everyone is pissed that has the brains to see the system for what it has become. A system built upon greed, stupidity, debt, and evil cannot survive. The hard core left and right cling to this absurd hope that the right “D” or “R” will be the savior.
Leroy Added Oct 9, 2017 - 10:10pm
I still chuckle to myself when I think about my millennial colleague during the 2016 elections.  He couldn't determine whom he would vote for president.  He proudly announces one day, "Leroy, I found this app that will help me choose whom to vote for."
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 10, 2017 - 7:53pm
I'm surprised they don't have ab app to tell them when to go to the bathroom.
Leroy Added Oct 11, 2017 - 8:29am
I searched it on Google Play.  As I typed in "bathroom" in suggested "bathroom break," so, evidently, there are millennials searching for such an application.
That reminds me.  Yesterday I read an article about Home Depot.  It is worried about the millennial demographic.  Seems they don't have the know-how to use its products after living in the basement all these years.  It has created a series of videos to teach millennials how to use its products based on what they search for.  So, Home Depot has created a series of videos on how to mop a floor, pound a nail, use a measuring tape, and the like.  That is pretty much in line with the work place.  Ask them to do something and the first thing they will say is, "I'm not trained to do that."  I'm talking about simple things.  What is the world coming to?
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 13, 2017 - 11:47pm
Yes, Leroy, the SLSS (Spoiled Little Snowflake Syndrome) has made them allergic to any kind of manual labor. They know their way around a computer, but can't hammer a nail, unplug a sink, or change the oil in a car.