A recent article over at The New York Times by Elizabeth Olson sheds light on the reality that age bias in the workplace is a significant hurdle to overcome for an aging population that, ironically enough, sees itself expecting to work longer than any from previous generations.
Olson details the experiences of Julianne Taaffe, 60, and Kathryn Moon, 65, who retired as instructors from Ohio State University short of reaching eligibility for their full benefits because of what they claim was a hostile work environment toward older teachers like themselves.
The dustup began several years ago when the pair saw an email from their boss at the time, addressed to a colleague at another university, which said, in part, that Ms. Taaffe and her teaching associates were “an extraordinarily change-averse population of people almost all of whom are over 50, contemplating retirement (or not), and it’s like herding hippos.” According to Ms. Taaffe, the email basically confirmed a change in workplace culture and climate she and her fellow teachers had been seeing for some time, characterized in part by the regular promotion of younger and less experienced instructors at the expense of older ones.
Although her department landed a new boss, not only did conditions not improve, according to Taaffe, but they actually worsened. When Taaffe met with department director Robert A. Eckhart for her annual performance review, his first question was, “How long have you been around here, anyway?” His follow-up act was to lower her overall performance rating (from the previous year), even though he’d never seen her actually teach, allegedly telling Taaffe that the previous year’s rating was too high and that her teaching was not that good (again, even though he had not actually seen Taaffe teach, according to her).
Both Taaffe and Moon are now going after Ohio State on the basis of age discrimination. Overall, there is no lack of age discrimination complaints these days as more “seasoned” citizens continue to swim like crazy against the adverse economic tide that threatens to consume so many Americans. According to a 2013 survey by AARP, 92 percent of respondents said they saw age bias as either “very” or “somewhat” commonplace, and, in 2015, there were over 21,000 age discrimination complaints filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large