Is AGEISM growing as the workforce gets younger?

Don't assume that just because someone has grey hair they cannot be productive.
Don’t assume that just because someone has grey hair they cannot be productive.

Here are some to the headlines I have seen in various news stories lately:

  • And the verdict is… guilty of Ageism
  • Add Hewlett-Packard to the list of Tech Icons sued for Ageism
  • Ageism in the workforce
  • Ex Apple engineer rejected for genius bar job adds fuel to the ageism debate
  • How old are you?- we will be back in touch
  • Is Ageism the ugliest “ISM” on Madison Avenue?
  • Silicon Valley’s not-so-secret bias: Ageism
  • Old Geek Jobs: Fighting against ageism in the industry
  • It’s time to stop referring to people 50 and over as seniors

Thus, it was no surprise to open up my email to read about yet another lawsuit on age discrimination.

Old nurses

The EEOC press release was titled Montrose Hospital Sued by EEOC for Widespread Age Discrimination. Although this has not yet been proven, just that headline alone has sullied the hospital’s name and reputation and is bringing them scrutiny I am sure they did not want. According to the press release:

 “According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Katherine Casias worked as a licensed practical nurse and registered nurse for 27 years with the hospital before Montrose fired her, accusing her of performance defici­encies for which younger nurses were treated much more leniently. EEOC alleges that hospital managers made ageist comments, including that younger nurses could ‘dance around the older nurses’ and that they preferred younger and ‘fresher’ nurses.”

Attorney Steven Gutierrez of Holland & Hart, LLP said that the Chief Nursing Officer, Joan Napolilli, is accused of making more than one statement and taking discriminatory action against Katherine Casias. He notes the alleged comments and actions include:

  • a younger RN could “dance around the older nurses;”
  • younger nurses are “easier to train” and “cheaper to employ;”
  • Casias was not “fresh enough” and was chastised for not smiling or saying hello enough;
  • referring to Casias as an “old bitch;”
  • older workers at the hospital were “a bunch of monkeys” and she’d “like to fill the hospital with new nurses and get rid of all the old ones;” and
  • telling a nurse supervisor to “work that old grey-haired bitch into the ground” and to work her “long and hard until she quit or got fired.”

The hospital is accused of not disciplining or terminating nurses under the age of 40 for the same alleged behaviors, such as being rude and not smiling enough, for which Casias lost her employment.

The funny thing

The funny thing is that the Chief Nursing Officer is no young woman herself. I have always wondered about people who have decried the short-coming of older workers who are themselves older workers. Have the no looked in the mirror?
The title I gave this blog post is directed toward more younger workers in the workforce. Although they might not be the direct cause of ageism the fact that they are available makes the opportunity for ageism to occur that much greater. If they then adopt their bosses’ attitudes about older worker then ageism will get much worse.

How to deal with ageism

The first preventive measure against ageism is to have a stated policy against any form of discrimination. Be aware of biases against older workers and make sure that any employment action taken against any employee is based on their performance. You cannot ASSUME that just because someone is older that they are going to be slower or less productive. If they are and you can show it on paper, and it is reality, then that does allow you to replace them.
The second preventive measure is to check your attitude at the door. Be aware of your own biases and your own language. It is easy to forget, especially if you don’t see yourself as being in the category of age you happen to be cursing. If you don’t you may find yourself in the same boat as the Montrose Hospital, having to defend the actions of a manager.

3 thoughts on “Is AGEISM growing as the workforce gets younger?”

  1. Great post Mike,
    Unfortunately this is pervasive in the job market today. Particularly for those experienced professionals who are in transition. As an experienced worker who was in transition, I saw firsthand ageism discrimination in the hiring process. As potential employees experience this treatment they are reticent to make any allegations which may further exacerbate their situation. It goes to the culture of organizations who permit or condone this. I fear it will only get worse for the next few years.

  2. I very much appreciate you addressing this as a key issue. However, it does sadden me that the other side of ageism is not addressed. As a young man who started working when he was 16 and has constantly striven to improve my career, I have found age discrimination in every work place I have worked until I joined my current organization. There has always been questions or resistance to my promotions and appointments to various committees or as a member of leadership. The overall doubting of abilities until you can “prove it”, beyond what would be required of an older manager, is prevalent in upper management that is generally made up of older professionals. It would have been nice to see this addressed.

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