Next year for the first time, the Boomer generation will relinquish its position as the #1 generation in terms of percentage of the U.S. population. Taking over will be... who else but the Millennials.
Statistically, it doesn't really matter, but socially, it's a big deal. We are already witnessing the mass cultivation of Millennials with products and services targeting them as Boomers fade in popularity. Similarly, businesses have little compunction when it comes to ejecting a Boomer employee in favor of a Millennial employee.
The Wharton School of Business has something to say about the coarseness of letting Boomers go because of age: "...companies eager to move baby boomers along should be careful what they wish for. For one thing, millennials are less likely to stay in jobs than others, and turnover often carries high hidden costs. For another, few workplaces have mastered a system for transferring knowledge from one generation to the next."
The fact is, age discrimination is widespread across many businesses, putting Boomers in a precarious position because it is difficult to prove and take legal action against an employer who practices age discrimination. According to Wharton professor of legal studies and business ethics Janice Bellace, “It is much more difficult to prove age discrimination than race or sex discrimination." Bellace says the burden of proof that an employee was demoted or fired because of age lies with the employee. “That’s a very heavy burden of proof,” she says. “In real life, if an employer would like to push out an older worker, the employer’s [managers] would have to be idiots not to lay down some paper trail that suggests that there were some other reasons for dismissing the person. It’s even more difficult in a hiring case, because the plaintiff must prove that there was no other reason, except for age, that the employer preferred another candidate.”
Age discrimination will therefore continue to be a big challenge for Boomers, who may need to find non-traditional employment as an alternative, such as becoming self-employed and working on a contract basis.