On the Clock

Proving Age Discrimination in Employment is Too Hard

OntheClock Woman-1246587_1920A recent article in The New York Times got me fired up again about age discrimination in the American workplace, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing practices. I've written about this issue before, providing some links to useful online resources.

The Times article highlights the serious nature of the problem for workers over 50 years old. As the article points out, recent court decisions in age-related anti-discrimination cases have made things harder, not easier, for older workers. It's largely because of the way the federal ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) works, or doesn't work. As usual, when Congress writes a law, it carries with it loopholes -- and there are plenty of them in ADEA. Proving an employer uses age discrimination to hire or fire someone age 50 or over is difficult, and the legal burden is on the individual to pursue a case that can be very costly. What's more, doing so basically blacklists that individual in the job market.

The Times article cites this sobering fact: "More than half of workers over 50 lose longtime jobs before they are ready to retire..." along with this even more sobering fact: "On average, a 54-year-old job hunter will be unemployed for nearly a year." The article also reveals the experiences of some older job-seekers who faced obvious age discrimination. Some of the cases are startling in terms of what older workers are told by prospective employers; one of them reportedly said, "We are not looking for old white guys." Thankfully, that particular employer, a restaurant chain, was sued and agreed to pay a $2.85 million settlement.

The good news is some organizations are starting to fight back against age discrimination, even if individuals cannot afford to do so. According to the Times article, the Communications Workers of America, a union, has filed a lawsuit accusing hundreds of major employers of "systematic age discrimination in hiring based on targeted online advertising." They are looking at the possibility of class-action lawsuits. Still, a recent court ruling demonstrates an uphill battle: The court found that "recruiting practices that have the effect of screening out older applicants — what is known in legal terms as having a “disparate impact” — did not violate the law."

You would think that, with low unemployment and "Help Wanted" signs proliferating that older workers would be welcomed by employers. Sadly, that is not the case.

Image: Pixabay.com

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Working Because We Have To

OntheClock Man-111302_1920
If you're over the age of 65 and still working, you are in good company. As reported by Bloomberg, in February 2019, the participation rate of 65-plus workers in the labor force has reached 20 percent for the first time in 57 years. Paradoxically, the Boomers who are most likely to be working are more educated, better off, and healthier, while less educated, working-class Boomers are struggling to remain employed. Those individuals with less than a college education participate in the labor force at a rate of about 10 percent.

Working after the traditional retirement age is becoming the norm for more and more Boomers. While a good percentage of Boomers want to work, many have to work for economic reasons. It is estimated that even the maximum Social Security monthly payment, which a Boomer can draw beginning at age 70, will only replace at most half of one's pre-retirement income. It's a generally accepted fact that, after Boomers stop working altogether, they need about 80 percent of their pre-retirement income to live, according to the Bloomberg report. As I've written in the past, the retirement savings accumulated by most Boomers puts them in a precarious position, especially given the reality that Boomers are living much longer than previous generations. Because of the 2008 recession, Boomers may have lost a significant portion of their retirement portfolio and it has taken years for their savings to recover.

Thankfully, work options do exist for Boomers, even if they are vulnerable in their current positions. A robust economy means far more jobs are available, although a large percentage is, admittedly, in lower paying positions. Still, full-time, part-time, and self-employment opportunities are available. "Gigs," or contract jobs, are also plentiful, and many of them enable Boomers to work from home on a flexible schedule if desired.

As Boomers are well aware, life is all about compromise. If you have to work and you're over 65, you can probably get a job. You just might have to lower your expectations.

Image: Pixabay

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


You Deserve a "Respectful Exit"

OntheClockGenerally I stay away from any kind of open endorsement in writing my blog posts, but I feel compelled to tell you about an organization called "Respectful Exits." Led by Paul Rupert, an expert in flexible scheduling and staffing, this nonprofit has initiated a national campaign with local affiliates. Their goal is to get employer practices "to catch up with the new longevity." The Respectful Exits "Longevity Agenda" has the following objectives:

  • End the 65 “sell-by” date as a mandatory or informal “retirement age”

  • Practice career-long development and training of all staff

  • Encourage robust flexible scheduling for employees of all ages

  • Provide ongoing, on-demand financial wellness counseling

  • Implement and promote flexible and phased retirement options.

Respectful Exits has just launched a free online tool called "The Phazer." Here's how the organization describes it:

The guidance in The Phazer™ is based on tools and processes we developed in the phased retirement programs of major companies. Hundreds have used them successfully. While no one can guarantee the success of a given proposal – and there are risks in stepping forward – two truisms apply here: “If you don’t ask, you won’t get” and “You don’t get what you deserve…you get what you negotiate.”

Think of this site as a GPS to the destination of your choice. 

Kudos to Respectful Exits for taking a proactive approach to age discrimination in the workplace. If you are in a situation with an employer where you are being phased out or terminated because of your age, even if you want to continue to work, you should definitely check out Respectful Exits in general and The Phazer specifically. Here are the links to their sites:

https://www.respectfulexits.org/

https://www.thephazer.org/

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Job Search Sites May be the Best Option for Boomers

OntheClockYou've heard it over and over again -- and perhaps faced it yourself: Ageism, aka age discrimination, is rampant in American business. This makes it especially difficult for Boomers to find employment, because they can be silently discriminated against. As a result, the best option for job-searching Boomers may be to take advantage of the Internet. Numerous job search sites are available, and some even specialize in helping Boomers secure positions. Here are a few that might help:

  • RetirementJobs.com
    RetirementJobs.com, Inc. now has more than one million members nationwide. The site's goal is to identify companies most-suited to older workers and match them with active, productive, conscientious, mature adults seeking a job or project that matches their lifestyle. The RetirementJobs.com service is completely free for job seekers. The service provides the option of upgrading to a premium service which gives access to seminars and special content, and enables job seekers to easily identify job openings from employers they have certified or pre-certified as age friendly.
  • FlexJobs.com 
    FlexJobs.com hand-screens flexible jobs, which it defines as remote, telecommute, part-time and/or freelance jobs. The site has professional job listings in over 50 career categories ranging from entry-level to executive, freelance to full-time, and local to global. FlexJobs charges for its service because it says it is "a premium job search service, offering you personalized support, curated and trusted resources, and guiding tools to help you in your job search, your career, and your work-life fit."
  • AARP Working at 50+
    Part of the AARP.org website, AARP Working at 50+ is an informational site with articles about staying competitive, age discrimination, work-life balance, and planning for retirement. The site also has an "AARP Job Board" to enable searching for positions by job, title, or company within cities/states.
  • Overcoming Age Discrimination in the Hiring Process
    (The National Council for Aging Care) While this is not a job search site, it contains excellent information for Boomers regarding industries, age discrimination, how to make yourself more marketable, and more.

If you need more sources, do a search on "jobs for Boomers" and you will find numerous other sites that may be of help. And be sure to check out this great list of resources from Nancy Collamer posted on Forbes.com. 


"Phased Retirement" is a National Dilemma

OntheClockIt sounds like a credible solution for older workers: Why not allow them to phase out of their jobs into retirement? The reality, of course, is it is easier said than done. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported on phased retirement programs and found that, while the number of older workers in the labor market has increased in the last decade, "most individuals ages 61 to 66 who were still working maintained a full-time work schedule." A quarter (25 percent) of them had planned to reduce their hours as they transitioned to retirement, but less than 15 percent actually reported being partly retired or gradually retiring from their career jobs.

According to a review by the GAO, "formal phased retirement programs are relatively uncommon." They appear to be more common among employers with larger technical and professional workforces. Industries with skilled workers or with labor shortages have a higher motivation to offer phased retirement to older workers because these employees are more difficult to replace.

In addition, formal phased retirement programs are challenging for companies to institute. One of the reasons for this is compliance with existing laws. The GAO reviewed a particular study that indicated 71 percent of large employers "agreed that regulatory complexities and ambiguities involving federal tax and age discrimination laws impact their ability to offer phased retirement programs." Still, the GAO found that those employers who did institute phased retirement programs found them beneficial because of factors such as worker retention, knowledge transfer, and workplace planning.

The sad truth is phased retirement is something of a national dilemma. Boomers want to, and in many cases, have to work. Those individuals who are in professional careers or are highly skilled at their jobs are valuable employees, but more and more companies seem to throw them onto a scrap heap and opt to replace them with younger, less expensive (but less knowledgeable) workers. Only when it directly benefits the company, or the company's senior management is enlightened enough to see the value, will that company consider implementing any kind of phased retirement. Obviously, laws and regulations that make phased retirement unattractive are not helping the situation.

There is no easy solution to the phased retirement dilemma. It is simply not a national trend or, it seems, a national priority. It may actually be up to you, the individual worker, to impress upon your employer the value of allowing you to phase into retirement.


Boomers and the "Hot" Job Market

OntheClockWith the unemployment rate at its lowest point in 18 years, the job market is "sizzling hot," writes career/retirement coach Nancy Collamer. Reporting on a work conference sponsored by Indeed.com, Collamer heard that the job market is tight and talent is hard to find, although wages are generally not going up in keeping with the labor demand.

Still, a robust job market should be good news for Boomers, shouldn't it? Well, yes and no. On the positive side, a Boomer with experience in a field considered desirable by employers may have an easier time than ever securing a part-time or full-time position. On the negative side, there is still plenty of age discrimination, and there is little Boomers can do about it. The fact is employers can interview all they want for an open position, and once they have several candidates available, more often than not they will pick younger over older.

Dust off your resume if you're in a job that you'd like to leave, or if you want to re-enter the workforce. If an employer cannot fill a position and your background and experience are an excellent fit, the market is such that you could be offered a full-time position. Keep in mind, however, that your salary expectations may have to be adjusted. Also, there is always the possibility that you can work part-time or become a contract worker if you don't want a full-time position or, at the very least, you may be able to negotiate flexible hours.

Interestingly, this might be an ideal time to see if your former employer needs help. In an article for The New York Times, Claudia Dreifus profiles several retirees who returned to work years after retiring because their employers had open positions they needed to fill. For example, a 60-year old registered nurse who retired was rehired by a hospital as a freelance nurse for 24 hours per week at a respectable $60 per hour.

A booming job market could be good for some Boomers -- but not for all. That's why it still makes a lot of sense to explore freelance work or self-employment as an option if you want to continue to work.


Another Way to Look at Retirement: Don't Do It

OntheClockWe're not all fortunate enough to have jobs we might want to work at forever. But some of us are doing just that -- and instead of reinventing retirement, these folks are avoiding it.

Take the case of Judge Jack Weinstein, a spry 96-year old who has no intention of retiring. He was appointed some fifty years ago but isn't about to give up his profession now. He tells The New York Times, “I’m a better judge, in some respects, than when I was younger. I don’t remember names. But I listen more. And I’m more compassionate. I see things from more angles. If you are doing interesting work, you want to continue.”

Other elders love their jobs. Consider Warren Buffett, still an active investor at Berkshire-Hathaway at the age of 87. Or Adolfo Calovini, perhaps less famous than Buffett but no less active. Also mentioned in The New York Times article, the 82-year old Calovini teaches English as a second language at a New York high school. An immigrant. Calovini has a special understanding of the students who take his class. He tells The Times, “To me, teaching is about life. This is what I do. I can’t see a time when I wouldn’t.”

Weinstein, Buffett and Calovini are just examples of the 1-1/2 million people still working after the age of 75, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau estimates that almost 11 percent of the workforce will be age 75 or older by 2026.

If you have a job you love, consider yourself lucky -- maybe it'll be yours for life.


Slowly, the Older Worker Market Improves

OntheClockWhile the nation's unemployment rate continues to be low, the unemployment rate among workers 55-plus is deceiving. That's partly because those older workers who are employed may be working part-time when they really want to work full-time. There is some good news for older workers, though: An overall low unemployment rate means companies may be loosening up their hiring practices and offering positions to more mature individuals.

According to AARP, CVS, United Health Group, AT&T, and The Hartford are four examples of companies that are actively recruiting older workers. CVS, for example, promotes positions through an initiative the corporation calls "Talent Is Ageless." Almost one-quarter of CVS employees are over 50 years of age, and older workers are matched with younger, less experienced peers to offer them valuable guidance. The Hartford, through "The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence," actively seeks employees from senior centers and retirement communities.

AARP is encouraging companies to join in. The AARP Employer Pledge Program is a national effort to help employers solve their current and future staffing challenges and direct job seekers to employers that value and are hiring experienced workers. Working with AARP, participating organizations have signed a pledge that they:

  • Believe in equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age
  • Believe that 50+ workers should have a level playing field in their ability to compete for and obtain jobs
  • Recognize the value of experienced workers
  • Recruit across diverse age groups and consider all applicants on an equal basis.

AARP also offers helpful web-based resources specifically for 50-plus workers:
 http://www.aarp.org/aarp-foundation/our-work/income/back-to-work-50-plus/

It is encouraging to see at least some companies acknowledge the value of experience and maturity that older workers bring to a workplace.  


"Redeployment" isn't Just a Military Term

OntheClockRetirement expert Kerry Hannon writes frequently about working past the traditional retirement age. She recently told MarketWatch that, when it comes to switching jobs in your 50s or 60s, "The truth of the matter is a lot of what you can do is redeploying skills you have." She suggests promoting skills you already have on a resume and says for older job switchers, it's about "being resilient and being flexible."

I think the concept of "redeployment" is a solid way to view the all-too-common dilemma of seeking new employment. If you're a Boomer who has lost a job you had for many years, or you're simply burned out and want a new opportunity, you will likely be faced with age discrimination. While you cannot overcome this basic bias completely, you can represent yourself and your skills in the best possible light. Marketing what you really have going for you can make a big difference.

It pays to ask yourself some serious questions about your competency in various areas and make sure your expertise in these areas is emphasized on your resume, in your cover letter, and at an interview. "Soft skills," such as listening and communicating well or being analytical, could also be viewed as very valuable by a potential employer. Hannon says such skills can be advantageous, regardless of the field you're in. "What a lot of employers look for if they want you to be a part of the team is if you have social skills."

So think about it: How could you redeploy your current skills and experience into a brand new job, potentially in a new field of interest to you? Is it possible to leverage your professional background, your specific expertise, and your soft skills so that you look like a very distinctive and attractive job candidate? In addition, in redeploying your abilities, do you recognize that you may have to be more flexible in accepting a new position in terms of managerial level, hours worked, or compensation?

"Redeployment"of your skills and abilities could be a key strategy to finding the right "second wind" opportunity.  


Ever Wonder What Other Boomers Do for Work?

OntheClockWorking past the previously accepted retirement age of 65 is now commonplace. Most Boomers want to, or have to, work into their 70s and perhaps even beyond. So what are all these Boomers doing for work?

It turns out that an increasing percentage of Boomers start their own businesses, or work independently as freelancers in what has become known as the "gig economy." According to recent data cited by Nancy Collamer in her article about the gig economy for Next Avenue, freelancers/consultants/temps and on-call workers (i.e., "independents") make up 31 percent of the private workforce. For those 53 years and older, the percentage is 35 percent. Nancy offers some valuable tips on how Boomers can enter the gig economy.

So what jobs do the rest of us hold? Zippia, a new career site intended for recent college graduates, shares some interesting data in an article entitled "The Jobs You'll Work When You Retire." The five most common jobs for those over 65, according to Zippia, are motor vehicle operators (this includes taxis, trucks, etc.), embalmers/funeral attendants (really!), crossing guards, models/demonstrators/product promoters, and tax preparers.

Another data point is jobs with the most older workers. These jobs include: accountants, lawyers,nurses, physicians, retail salespeople, senior managers, and teachers/professors. It is also a fact that, in general, average workers age 60 to 74 are paid more in hourly wages than average workers age 25 to 59.

Check out the Zippia article for more details to learn what other Boomers do for work: https://www.zippia.com/advice/jobs-youll-work-retire/