New Orleans There’s nothing easy about getting old, but as everyone says, it’s still better than the alternative. Increasingly there seems to be an emerging crisis that older people and older workers may run out of money way before they run out of time.
Given the huge demographic bulge of the baby boomers, if there’s one problem the elderly of the currently maturing generation might have thought they wouldn’t have to contend with its age discrimination. Wrong!
There’s a law right? So this is a protected category. Yes, but it turns out it is not a very well protected category.
Age discrimination cases are very difficult to win because of two fairly recent Supreme Court decisions. For public employees a 2000 ruling denied money damages in cases against state agencies, including public universities, which means for them that if they were to win the lawyer might get paid, and they might wait for years and get reinstatement, but no back money and no damages. A situation where there is both harm and a foul! Furthermore, in 2009 a ruling made it harder to contemplate winning under any terms by saying that age had to be the “motivating factor” for the dismissal. Employers being employers could potentially manufacture a host of problems, degrade evaluations, nitpick, pile on petty write-ups, and the like and as long as they disguise the fact that they are giving a worker the boot because she’s older, and likely paid more than some young pup, they are going to prevail in court.
When you look at the ages of the Supreme Court, you have to wonder what they were thinking and how different their world of lifetime appointment has skewed their reasoning. The average age of Supreme Court justices is 75 now, and the average age they retire is 78.5 when they get good and ready. They have job protection on steroids!
When you look at the average ages in Congress, you would think some retirement home canasta club would be able to shuffle a bill through the halls to give older workers and senior citizens more protection. The average age of the House of Representatives membership is 57, and the average age of the Senators is 62. No matter what they tell you, that’s not young either.
Maybe there will be some encouraging proposals from the presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is 68 and Donald Trump is 69. Senator Bernie Sanders is kicking it up at 74. But if there are, I haven’t heard them.
Go to a high school reunion and the list of people being forced out from companies big and small and unhappy about it is legion. There’s a huge base for a real program to both create jobs for young workers and protect the livelihoods and retirements for senior citizens, but I don’t get the feeling that this is the revolution that an AARP is going to lead, nor is this a big news item in the current election season. This is a vacuum that needs to be filled.