Why Junior Employees Should Demand The Eradication Of This Workplace No-No

One of the most crucial life milestones is landing that first full-time job. It’s a right of passage that marks adulthood. No more worrying about youth and lack of experience standing in the way of opportunity. That’s all behind you now as you set out to create financial security and career success.

Until you reach your 40s, that is, when careers become increasingly uncertain due to age bias, stereotypes and discrimination. In fact, ageism is so deeply ingrained into the culture that it is considered acceptable–even though it is not.

And that’s got to change.

Until then, earn as much as you can, as fast as you can, because there are a lot of years between 40 and 100–the age you may well live to see.

Living Longer

Regardless of the pandemic, people are living longer. According to the World Atlas, the U.S. has the highest absolute number of centenarians in the world, with Japan coming in second, with 79,000 Japanese who are 100 years or older. However, in population totals, Japan has the highest, with 28% of its population over age 65 as of 2019. Japan is also where the longest living person lives. Kane Tanaka turns 119 on January 2, 2022.

A life expectancy of 100 adds a lot of financial responsibility. As it is, one in four older Americans has less than $500 saved to cover medical expenses. According to the survey, nearly half (46%) of individuals age 65 or older (most who rely on medicare) are concerned that a major health situation in their household could lead to medical debt or bankruptcy.

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If people over 40 fear age discrimination and almost half over 65 fear bankruptcy, what is required to increase financial security during the 25 years in between? How can financial security be guaranteed after 65 and the years leading up to what might be a 100th birthday celebration?

It begins with workplace disruption and the ageist society that drives it. Applicant Tracking System is broken. Recruiters work hard to find the best talent but are pressured to look exclude minorities and older candidates. 

A Global Phenomenon

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization released a 200-page report explaining a myriad of ways ageism manifests in both younger and older people.

In the U.S., workplace age protections under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) do not begin until age 40 (although some states, such as New York, protect all ages). However, ask any labor and employment attorney, and they will tell you age discrimination is the most difficult to prove.

For job applicants ADEA protections are not a given, with District Courts ruling inconsistently. One reason for the Protect Older Job Applicants Act (POJA) currently sitting in the Senate awaiting a ruling. POJA clarifies that the ADEA does protect employees and applicants–just like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

As a result, applicants as young as 40 often are considered too old to be relevant, no matter how dedicated they’ve been to ongoing retraining and new skills acquisitions. Years of accumulated expertise are suddenly considered over-rated and over-priced. The value assigned to work ethic, dedication and loyalty plummet as leaders look for younger, cheaper talent willing to be available 24/7.

Unless younger workers want to age into that career future, they need to be a part of the solution and demand a truly diverse, age-equitable workplace.

We need accountability not found in current federal legislation, but in today’s political climate the likelihood of the parties coming together to make any holistic change seems unlikely. That means it’s up to people across the age spectrum, of all ages–even those just beginning their careers–to come together and demand a workplace that works for everyone.

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