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What is age discrimination in the work place?

Having just found out I was barely considered for a job I applied for at a "progressive" organization, I'm asking myself a few questions. I don't intend these to be passive aggressive statements, but real questions for discussion.
Question 1: Is judging someone based on experience age discrimination? If you have two applicants--one is older with five years experience, the other is younger, with only one year--is it discrimination to go with the older applicant, mainly because of the number of years he has under his belt? Should the employer be expected to look at the younger applicant's body of work, and see what he's actually done with his one year?

Question 2: Females and African Americans are both granted more freedom in their dress and appearance, because it's understood to be a part of their culture. Should youth be getting the same exceptions? Does the Afro deserve more protection then the Shaggy Suburban Skater cut?

Language and law 29.May.2009 03:41

Mike Novack

Don't always agree. You are correct that the English words "age discrimination" could indeed be used in the way that you have just done. However what has been made illegal by various laws against "Age Discrimination" is a far more restricted subset of the possible and refers to older workers only. Sorry -- but these laws dn't provide any protection for the young and inexperienced.

Would not be applicable to your situation in any case. Even older POTENTIAL workers have no protections until after having been hired. There are no obligatons for an employer to hire an older, more experienced worker instead of a young worker who can be perhaps be hired for less money and hopefully trained on the job.

The degrees of freedom you seem to perceive in clothing and hair style depends very much on the particular work place and there can be hidden rules as well (might not prevent getting hired; but not wearing the right sort of clothes could keep you from getting ahead). Can be rather tricky especially if there appears to be only a lax dress code (I worked in a place which went "casual" and the actual result of that was that men had greater effective freedom (within the range of what is considered "casual dress" in our society) than women did (where that range is much rider in society BUT unless they chose from that range just right would have problems). Similarly with hair styles.

Your personal problem might be less the matter of dress and appearance itself than the impression that it gives potential employers "here is a person who either doesn't comprehend the rules of his society or is unable to play by rules even when in his best interest" and they worry that THAT failing might affect your on the job performance -- can you learn the rules of the job and follow them if you don't appear able to learn the rules for a "job interview".

age discrimination: technically illegal 29.May.2009 21:00

but not against the young, and unproveable anyway

It's true, the "ideal employee" is about thirty.

This is great when you're thirty but not so good if you're twenty or forty or sixty.

At least when you're twenty you can look forward to increasing employability ... for a while.

Re: dress codes, the workplace is not really a venue for showing off what a rebel you are. If you're really ten times more productive than everybody else, you can get away with it, but obviously most people are not. It's not the smart move. If you must flout convention, a shaved head is now acceptable pretty much everywhere, hip or square.