An ugly “class” issue lurks beneath the argument that older workers should be forced out of the workplace so that younger workers can have their jobs.
The argument is often made by people who enjoy professional status, earn big bucks and look forward to comfortable pensions. Not by ordinary working stiffs.
This is the case in a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal by two law school professors from the University of Chicago, Saul Levmore, who is around 63 years of age, and Martha Nussbaum, who is 70.
They claim, without citing any supporting data, that the productivity of workers declines after age 50. Performance may decline in some areas for some workers (i.e., quarterbacks and major league pitchers) but aging is individualistic and not uniform. Should we also assume that all women want to be mommies and all men can bench press 500 pounds?
They argue the law should allow employers and employees “to agree” on a retirement age at the start of a new job, so the workers can be terminated “after a certain age” without cause. Don’t they know that few, if any, workers would voluntarily agree to such an onerous contract term. That these contracts would be based on age discrimination and signed under duress.
Why would the Wall Street Journal shine its spotlight on an essay that fails to show any understanding for the plight of older workers or the reality of age discrimination in the workplace? Possibly because six corporations own 90 percent of the media today and these corporations engage in age discrimination.
Ironically, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 initially permitted colleges and universities to involuntarily retire tenured professors at age 65. How would Levmore and Nussbaum feel about being forced to hand their posh jobs over to deserving young PhDs? Continue reading “Classism and Forced Retirement”