Skip to comments.It's the age of the older worker -- but is that good or bad? (Lawsuits)
Posted on 02/07/2005 10:08:53 AM PST by qam1
It could mean more jobs or just more discrimination suits
One look at the demographic tables suggests that age discrimination suits might be the next big wave of workplace litigation in the United States.
But a second look might lead to the conclusion that older workers soon could find themselves more keenly appreciated by their bosses than ever.
Which version of events plays out, or whether it's a combination of both, could prove one of the more interesting workplace questions of the next decade or two.
What are the numbers driving the debate?
The first one is 77 million.
The youngest group of the 77 million baby boomers turns 40 this year, putting every single boomer above the minimum age -- 40 -- at which a worker can bring suit against an employer on age-related grounds.
Dennis Ahlburg, a University of Minnesota economist and demographer, said suits such as ones recently filed against Best Buy and 3M Co. that seek class-action status over age-bias accusations are likely to become more common as older workers lose their jobs, are passed over for promotion or suffer other workplace setbacks in middle age.
"As more and more baby boomers move into age groups where discrimination is an issue, then we'll see more and more of these suits. That's the arithmetic," Ahlburg said.
The second number of interest is 45 million.
It points to a different take on arithmetic that could make workplaces more secure for older workers.
There are just 45 million members of Generation X (today's 25- to 35-year-olds) to replace the 77 million baby boomers as they start to retire.
In other words, for every 100 baby boomers entering retirement over the next two decades, only 58 people in Generation X are available to replace them.
That could mean labor shortages that make the job market resemble the late '90s -- when companies offered signing bonuses, stock options and other incentives to attract and keep skilled workers, including those with graying temples -- more than the past few years of layoffs and buyouts at many companies.
Stephen Snyder, a Minneapolis lawyer representing plaintiffs in the age-discrimination suit against Best Buy, predicts that the number of such suits will decline as businesses come to feel more pressure to reward older workers.
"A company that fails to do so is not going to be competitive in the marketplace," said Snyder of Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett.
Robert Reinhart, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, thinks age discrimination cases might have peaked in the 1980s.
"In the 1980s, more than half my work was in age discrimination," Reinhart said. "I remember being called the dean of age discrimination law when I was too young to be the dean of anything."
While their status might improve going forward, older workers currently are the victims of a number of negative misconceptions by employers, Ahlburg said.
He said polls of employers have revealed deeply embedded stereotypes of how age affects job performance. He cited some common misconceptions among employers:
Older workers are absent more often. They're more risk-averse. They produce lower-quality work.
Instead, older workers have fewer workplace accidents than younger workers and are equally adept at learning new skills, Ahlburg said.
Workers age 45 to 54 have a 68 percent probability of still being with the same employer four years from now, according to one study, while just 58 percent of those age 25 to 39 are likely to remain with the same company over the same period.
"If you're going to invest in younger workers, we know younger workers are more likely to leave the company," Ahlburg said. "You can lose your investment."
If the adage about people voting with their feet is the best indicator, employers are preparing for the possibility of age-bias lawsuits remaining a significant threat in coming years.
Last spring, 1,700 lawyers and human resources executives streamed into the Xcel Energy Center to take notes at Upper Midwest Employment Institute seminars on employment law in which age discrimination was a featured topic.
As long as mass layoffs remain a staple of the U.S. economy, they are bound to hit larger shares of older workers as their numbers increase, some experts say.
"You're likely to see a significant increase in age discrimination cases," said Richard Ross, a partner at Fredrikson and Byron, a Minneapolis law firm. "To the extent the economy contracts and workers are laid off, the sheer number will involve more adverse actions involving older workers."
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effect Gen-Reagan/Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details and previous articles.
So if the last baby boomer turns 40 this year, what is a 39 year old?
I hate it when they leave me out of Generation X just because I'm leading the way!
You're wedged between the Boomers and Gen X - so you're a wedgie.
Maybe because some improvident old hippie has won't pass the torch and retire?
The workplace is inhabited now by greedy geezers in engineering, finance and the sciences and the greedy old bastards wouldn't hire any replacements in the 80's and 90's.....
I'm five years older than you and I was doing Gen X type stuff while you were still learning your multiplication tables. I was doing rock climbing when hardly anyone was into it. Wasn't very good, but I WAS doing it.
It's been a well known fact that there is going to be a labor shortage during the last have of this decade as the baby boomer generation starts to retire. I don't think employers are going to start firing older workers if its going to be difficult to replace them.
We have millions of illegal and recent legal immigrants from 3rd world countries. Many of these folks are young and probably won't become affluent soon. Including these folks, what is the ratio of skilled well paid workers versus higher paid skilled workers in this gen x category. Or, are we replacing an older skilled workforce with a low wage unskilled group?
Labor shortages? Give me a break. There will be less of a demand for workers in the future because of globalism.
And what sort of proficiency tests might those be?
I was rock climbiing in the 60's. Nyahh... nyaahhh
I disagree, Due to Boomer inefficiency, Most mid to large size companies have many BS, useless positions (i.e. Sensitivity/diversity trainers, efficiency experts, Team Leaders, etc.) that in a labor shortage could be easily tossed.
Whoa boy, don't get me started ! You wouldn't believe the people I've seen in their 60s and 70s that are still hanging on by a thread at their job and are keeping a perfectly qualified person from filling that job. The vast majority of these folks, just from what I've seen, 1. can't use a computer 2. can't type 3. take forever to do anything. Yes I know, it sounds like I'm a jerk.
Here's a good example. Does anybody watch the business shows on Saturday morning on Foxnews? I think it's on Forbes on Fox. Has anybody seen that OLD guy on that show who's so old he slurs his speech? Come on buddy, RETIRE! !
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