There seems to be a disconnect in American society. The American Dream for the senior citizen community seems to be nothing more than a magic trick, especially for those who have fallen subject to Ponzi schemes or victim to the failing global economy. Seniors now have to enter the job market unlike ever before. Instead of taking on part-time work for extra money, many seniors are seeking out full time jobs either for the health benefits or because social security isn’t enough to pay bills and also eat.
The Age Discrimination Employment Act became law in 1967. The problem with the stipulations composed in the act is the failure of reported violations. Since the plight of most seniors seeking work today is one of desperation, most seniors feel embarrassed and intimidated when it comes to reporting age discrimination in the workplace.
As an example, I recently spoke with a greeter at a major retailer who was in her mid to late sixties. She was very frustrated as all her managers were in their early twenties. She referred to them as “the Glee club.” The employee went on to talk about her managerial experience and said each and every time she applied for a promotion or even to just transfer departments, she was denied. She said she spoke with other greeters who had encountered this same experience. She also went on to say younger workers, who had no real employment history, always got the promotion.
To make matters worse, the employee reported that she was afraid to ask for her law-required lunch breaks. These breaks were often not offered or skipped and when she did ask for a bathroom break, she was ridiculed for having to take one. Out of fear she would be fired, the employee tolerated the alleged illegal working conditions. She honestly felt like she was lucky to have a job. Maybe, given the recent trends, she was.
What Wal-Mart and many of these companies are missing out on is the life experience older workers bring to the table. They also have a disadvantage by not hiring seniors when it comes to customer service. The senior generation was employed when technology wasn’t relied upon as it is today. Follow through, thank-you notes and sincerity when a customer notated a challenged has fallen by the way-side.
I know younger branded companies, who may have a prestigious viral empire built up, seem to forget the customer has a choice to do business with them. I can’t tell you the aggravation I have endured with some younger companies recently. I get shoddy service and when I do complain, I get an attitude or I don’t even get a response at all. It is as if I am lucky to have done business with them!
It is senior employees, like the one I met at Wal-Mart, who don’t seem to be getting hired for quality positions. It used to be all teenagers working at fast food restaurants. Now, it is all seniors. A lot of these food chains are great companies to work for, but there seems to be a perception that seniors can’t handle new technology.
At one of the food chain’s competitors I had no choice but to speak up. A high-school student was training a senior to work the cash register. The student’s behavior should have caused her manger to initiate a write-up, if not firing, based on what could have led to a serious lawsuit if the manager decided to file a complaint with the EEOC. Unfortunately, the student’s manager wasn’t any older and stared at me with a blank expression when I went over all the laws that were just broken. Never mind the complete disregard for someone’s feelings. The student didn’t know if the older worker just lost her husband and had no choice but to go back to work. She also didn’t know if the senior had a very substantial retirement income from holding an executive position and just wanted to be around people all day.