DennisBeaver-17

H. Dennis Beaver is a Bakersfield attorney.

Two important groups will find this story relevant to their daily lives:

• Employers needing competent, experienced and responsible employees, and;

• Competent, experienced, responsible people with wrinkles who want to work in our country’s economy that needs their skills but is haunted by bias and prejudice against the older worker.

And now, a question:

Who hasn’t read stories about companies who have downsized, profiting by laying off employees close to retirement age — and winding up getting sued by the government for this horrible way of treating people?

To Dr. Mark Novak, Professor of Sociology and Dean of Extended Education and Global Outreach at Cal State Bakersfield, “This is one of the worst examples of ageism,” and is one of many topics in his book "Issues in Aging," fourth edition, that I just finished reading, and which kept several evenings occupied, learning so much about this vital topic in today’s America.

While primarily a college textbook in gerontology, "Issues in Aging" becomes a seat on H.G. Well’s "The Time Machine," taking the college student – or CEO peering into the future – through the cycles in life that we will all experience, if we live long enough, and requires a box of Kleenex to be nearby.

Novak shares very personal experiences with the reader and there were moments when I just had to put the book down for a time. It was as if he was there, when I got the call from my brother-in-law, saying, “Dennis, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your father died this morning.”

I think that for a college student who is interested in Health Care — but does not know specifically what branch — Novak illustrates both the problems and the opportunities that accompany older age. He helps students to understand aging and introduces them to careers working with older adults. He does this with compassion, inviting readers to become “a fly on the wall” observing many of life’s most touching moments.

Solutions ready for insightful entrepreneurs

“Think Wrinkles,” Novak says with a broad smile. “Hiring older workers brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and drive. It is the insightful business owner and entrepreneur who sees not age, but great value to the company.

“There is today an army of skilled, motivated people —mature in all senses of the word that's money in the bank to employers who can see beyond gray hair and the typical bias and prejudice that comes to mind when we think of the elderly applying for a job.”

Why hire old fogies?

“There has never been an era in our nation’s history with such an increasing demand for skilled workers and, once they land a job, up, off they go, in search of better pay, and the cycle starts over again,” Novak observes.

He sees this as offering employers a choice: “Continue hiring inexperienced applicants fresh out of high school or college, or someone who has spent decades in your line of work who needs full or part time employment.”

He also asks these questions, which go to the very essence of the employer-employee relationship:

• Who is more likely to show up on time?

• Who is more likely to appreciate having the job?

• Who is more likely to be dependable?

• Who is more likely to give your company their all?

• Who is likely to have a set of values which will benefit the employer’s business?”

Age discrimination is illegal

“Employers need to understand that there are significant consequences for conduct that results in age discrimination,” notes Bakersfield labor attorney Jay Rosenlieb, who represents employers “in two separate instances, where:

(1) The employer who says, ‘We need a younger workforce,’ and then literally moves out the older workers.

(2) The older worker who is an applicant, or who is attempting to re-enter the workforce.

“My advice to our business clients is to always make employment decisions — promotion or termination — based on established criteria and without regard to any protected class status, and age is a classic protected class.”

So, what should – what can – an employee caught in that situation do or say?

“Employees can always seek assistant from EEOC or DFEH but I would strongly urge any employee or applicant to first have a conversation with the employer, manager or HR department before running off to a government agency.”

Rosenlieb has a cautionary statement for employers who choose to ignore the rights of older workers:

“As the Boomer generation continues to age, becoming a more prominent part of the work force, older people will want to continue their employment while others will seek employment, I see a possibility of more age discrimination claims. All employers need to treat their employees with fairness, respect, and understand the consequences of failing to do so.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield. Contact him at Lagombeaver1@gmail.com or visit dennisbeaver.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

(1) comment

Fram Smith

I am a clear credentialed science teacher with over a decade of teaching experience. But I am also 60 years old. I have given up looking for full time employment as a science teacher in kern county. No one will hire me. Game. Set .Match.

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