Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Geoffrey Owens and the Plight of Older Workers

Ageism is a bitch!

Just ask Geoffrey Owens, me, or any of the thousands of older adults who have been relegated to lower paying jobs in the latter stages of life because someone doesn't see the value of our employment stock.

For those of you who don't know the story----Geoffrey Owens was spotted working at Trader Joe's by a customer who used to watch him play the character "Elvin" on the Cosby Show.  The customer, who posted a picture of Owens on his social media page, said he was surprised to see someone he had been accustomed to seeing on TV now working at a grocery store.  What happened to this baby boomer actor at his Trader Joe's job is a shame but the former Cosby Show cast member was able to speak out about his plight before a nationally televised audience.  However, the majority of the rest of us are forced to remain silent because we are your "everyday people" who've worked hard all of our lives and just want to continue to be productive and well-paid before retirement.  As a result of being on shows like Good Morning America, The View and CNN with Don Lemon, Owens has been able to put himself back in the spotlight with some new job opportunities.  Kudos for him but, let me repeat, he was given a platform because of his "celebrity status." And then, on top of that, he had the nerve to say ALL jobs were basically the same.  Was he just acting for the cameras or did he really see his job at Trader Joe's as equal to that of a Communications Specialist for a Fortune 500 Company?  Perhaps he meant "worth ethic" so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

The truth of the matter is many of us are being shoved aside for younger, but not necessarily brighter, employees.  Corporate America must take some of the responsibility for pitting the young against the old. Many companies don't want to pay for experience. They would rather hire someone with the ability to do the job for less money than pay top dollar to a more experienced older employee. Some businesses aren't as interested in quality as they are in the bottom line: PROFIT.

And then you have companies like Amazon who prey on those of us who are eager to work to make ends meet by offering $11/hr positions to work in one of their warehouses (NC).  The opportunities for the higher paying jobs don't come through the regular channels---and if they do, they are looking for someone younger to fill them.

Young people, eager to get a foot in the door, often times will accept less money and learn just enough to move on. There are others who don't even make it through the training period and then there are those who don't show up for work at all (known as "ghosting.")  What some businesses fail to realize is knowledge and years of experience go a long way in keeping them from making the same mistakes over and over again.

According to a researcher from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, potential employers are more likely to discriminate against older workers. Johanna Lahey sent out 4,000 resumes, of people between the ages of 35 and 62, to firms in Boston, MA and St. Petersburg, FL. Her findings indicated younger workers were 40 percent more likely to be called back for an interview than an older worker, defined as 50 years and older. Furthermore, she cited the top ten reasons why employers said OTHER employers might be reluctant to hire older workers:

1) Shorter career potential
2) Lack of energy
3) Cost of health and life insurance and pensions
4) Less flexible/adaptable
5) Higher salary expectations
6) Health risks/absences
7) Knowledge and skills obsolescence
8) Block career path of younger workers
9) Suspicion about competence
10) Fear of discrimination lawsuit

The bottom line is older adults are living longer, healthier lives, have updated our technology skill sets in order to be competitive in today's job market. PLUS, we have the clear advantage when it comes to something called "soft skills."

Corporate America must be willing to recognize the pool of talented applicants no matter how old they are and the general public and (FOX News)  needs to stop the job shaming!

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