Richard McGee

richard@richardmcgeelaw.com

richardmcgeelaw.com

612-812-9673

My news feed fed me an article from the Wealthy Nickel titled 15 Reasons Employers Won’t Hire People Over 50.  I do not know what the Wealthy Nickel is and I am agnostic on its value to society writ large.  On the other hand, I am not agnostic on an article that fails to unequivocally condemn employers that discriminate against hiring older workers because I am an older worker, and more importantly, because age discrimination is immoral, illegal and disrespectful.

I expected the article to discuss with clarity the illegality of making employment decisions like hiring (but not just hiring) using age as a factor, but instead, the author evaluated whether the consensus to discriminate against older people “is appropriate or based on misguided assumptions.”  Consider the premise of that quote-using age in making employment decisions might be justified and reasonable.  Imagine the well deserved backlash if instead of age, the author discussed the merits of using race, sex or religion (or any other protected trait) in making employment related decisions.  Thereafter, the author cited a study from Chartered Marketing Institute asserting that only 42% of those responding to their survey would hire someone between 50 and 64.  The 50 to 64 year old demographic is still young, vibrant and offers substantial benefits to the workplace but nevertheless the author gathered and cited 15 reasons supporting discrimination.

The 15 reasons cited for not hiring people over 50 years of age are cultural emphasis on youth, generational gaps in the workplace, perceived threat to younger employees, social dynamics and ageism, fear of aging (gerontophobia), higher perceived costs, concerns about skill relevance, desire for long-term commitment, perceived inflexibility, underestimation of experience, diversity and inclusion focus, technological adaptability, health and stamina concerns, recruitment bias and retirement proximity.  Like some stereotypes there may be a small grain of truth in each of the 15 reasons for certain workers but even with that concession, stereotypes do not serve the decision maker well.  And as noted above, using stereotypes to make employment decisions can be illegal and immoral.  

From a cultural perspective, even if there is a grain of truth in some of the ageist observations, tribal employers are supposed to channel the tribe’s unique history, traditions and customs in defining the terms and conditions of employment, and respect for elders within the tribe and the workplace is a frequently cited tribal value (of course not all tribes are the same).  Using stereotypes to discount the value of elders in the workplace is a direct rejection of that tribal value.

As a counterbalance against the ageist arguments in favor of rejecting elders in the workplace, I wanted to offer some arguments in favor of rejecting young people for hiring, promotion and opportunity in the tribal workplace.

Too Good Looking

Young workers are simply too good looking without the burden of 50 years of gravity on their faces and the symptoms of insomnia below their eyes.  If time fixes everything it will fix the imbalance of smooth skin and wrinkles, of sharp hearing and requests for repetition and the envy of sleeping 8 hours without interruption.

No Grandchildren Soccer Stories

Young workers have no ability to tell boring stories about their grandchildren scoring in soccer, basketball or art class.  We grandparents can hijack conversations by telling our coworkers stories about grandchildren they will never meet and about art projects they will never see.  

Cannot Complete a Medicare Application

A serious flaw in a young worker’s resume is the lack of experience in completing an application for Medicare, selecting the best brand of prune juice in the grocery store or driving miles on a straight road with an inadvertent turn signal signaling.

Cannot Remember a Time Before the Calculator

Young people have not memorized their time tables because they went to school after the calculator was invented.  In the golden years before Texas Instruments, memorizing the multiplication table at least through 9 x 9 was an important mental exercise that generated some discipline.  Try that out without the safety net of your calculator which doubles as a phone.

Cannot Drive a Standard Transmission Vehicle

Your young workers cannot drive a standard transmission vehicle.  In English, young people cannot drive stick shift.  In 2024 that observation is worth almost zero since the number of standard transmission vehicles in America is almost zero, but some of aged workers learning to drive in the last century think this meaningless observation is important.

Wear Dress Pants Without Socks

Dress pants and shoes demand first pulling socks over your feet and the ankle display of both men and women reveals a gap that should not, in a civilized world, exist.  Put your socks on.

You Did Not Invent Acronyms

Young people invented LOL but your grandparents embraced acronyms long before you were laughing out loud.  In fact, human resources was full of acronyms for decades before laughing out loud or in a controlled murmur.  Whether HR is discussing the ADA, FMLA or FLSA or the myriad of other acronyms, my bet is that an elder HR professional can defeat a millennial in the acronym olympics everyday and twice on Sunday.  

BTW this is all said with affection for all workers young and aged.

May I assist you and your team with drafting policy, evaluating handbooks, training, assisting with hiring, firing and discipline; performing investigations of employee misconduct and representing the tribal employer if claims are presented?