The Ugly Face of Ageism - Discrimination Against Older Workers


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Discrimination against older workers is out there, and none of us will ever know (for the most part), whether we were discriminated against because of our age.

During my many years on this planet, I never gave any thought to ageism. But, I couldn't understand why I was having so much trouble finding work. . .including temporary work. During my entire lifetime, I have had no use for racists and bigots, so the issue of ageism never crossed my mind.

Then one day, I read an article in the local newspaper about the subject of ageism. It said that discrimination against older workers was the number one complaint at the Equal Employment Opportunity Center (EEOC). And, the article went on to say that complaints were rising at a rate of 15% per year over the past three years! At this time, I was over 50 years old, and after I read this article, I started to pay more attention to the subject of ageism.

A few months later, I read another article that came over the Internet, and was written by a writer at a business magazine. It gave some frightening numbers with respect to discrimination against older workers. It said that a survey was conducted by an employment agency, who specialized in recruiting and placing executive personnel. Their survey showed that an incredible 88% of those over 40 who responded, felt they had been discriminated against when it came to getting a job! And, a terrible 92% of those who already had a job, felt they had been discriminated against when they were up for promotion!

Anyway you slice it, these are terrible numbers, so after I saw these numbers, I sat up and paid more attention. After I read the two articles, I began to think back as to how ageism could have been one of my problems in my job search. Over the past decade, I have been laid-off from SIX jobs. . . all for legitimate reasons like companies closing or moving; defense cuts; the economy and so forth. I have never been let go because of poor attendance or an attitude problem. I have just had my share of bad luck, and that's all I can attribute the problem too.

My first job lay-off came, when I was laid off from an engineering company, where I had worked for over ten years. This company also moved out of town and was eventually eaten by a bigger fish! This happened when I was in my late forties. After working several months as a temporary employee, I got a job, which lasted about four years, before the company closed. It was about this time that I really started having trouble. . . not only finding a regular job, but getting temporary assignments. This was a very difficult time for me!

After I lost my third job, and like many others, I had to work as a temporary employee until something permanent came along. But, what will always amaze me, is the fact that I had to sign up with 24 temporary agencies. . . that's right. . .24 temp. agencies to survive! As I said earlier, I didn't give ageism a thought, but after reading the two articles, I had to wake up and smell the coffee and get my head out of the sand!

Of the 24 agencies I signed up with, only 12 of them ever called me for work, and those assignments were only for a few days. . . never any long-term assignments. The sign-up dates for most of these agencies had gone back three to five years. . . and nothing. . . NO CALLS! Even if I called in available every week, I got no calls!

After the 9/11 crisis, is when it really got bad for me, with the economy almost falling apart! At that miserable time, I had to start living off credit cards to pay the rent; buy groceries; buy gas, etc. I would call the agencies twice a week, as I headed downhill fast! Being as naive as I was at that time, could it be true that people would discriminate against me and others? I would find this to be true, as this horror story would unfold.

The answer to the possibility about ageism would come in about three months. One day in October, I was called by a temp agency to go work at a printing company, which was to be a three day assignment. I took it because there was nothing else!

The three days was to have ended the assignment on Friday afternoon, and the supervisor came to me and asked if I could come back the next week, and I said yes. They had me all over the production floor, helping other regular employees. The following Friday came along, and the same thing happened, and I was asked to come in the following week.

This went on for THREE MONTHS. . . as I was asked to come back week after week. The job started in the middle of October and ended in the middle of January. I worked the day shift; the swing shift; overtime on week-ends; came in at 3:00 in the morning to get special orders out, etc. So, I did everything they wanted me to do! This was a temp-to-hire position, meaning that after a certain period of time working there, I would be eligible to be hired on.

So, after three months of being called back to the company, my work record would speak for itself, and when this job was over I could either get hired on as an employee, or there would be another assignment by the temp agency! But, it was not to be! After the assignment was over in January, this is where I can really point the finger to ageism! I was not hired on by the company, despite my good record as a temp and perfect attendance. And, despite calling in every week to the temp agency that sent me to the printing company, I never heard from this employment agency again! (and, yes they were still in business)

I'll give you an example of a likely scenario at the employment agency. If three people call in available for work, and all are qualified to do the job, one is 25 years old; another is 35 years old, and the third is 55 years old. . . who do you think is going to get the job? I can tell you for sure that it's not going to be the 55 year old!


Because of so many job lay-offs, I had worked as a temporary employee longer than I would have liked. And, as I thought back at some of the incidents that happened during this long period of time, at the companies, as well as at the temp agencies, I could tell that ageism played a part, and I would never know by who; where, and I would never be able to do anything about it.

Discrimination against anyone or older workers is a big black eye for America, because in other countries, the elderly are respected and revered. In this country, the elderly are called names and put out to pasture! In many cases, not even their own kids want them, which is sad! And, the numbers on senior abuse continues to rise, which is another black eye for America! It's a shame that bigots exist anywhere in America, and especially in the work place, where we all try to make a living.

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