Age Discrimination in the Workplace and Forced Retirement
Forced Retirement: My Story
For more than two years, my school employer in Thailand had been trying to terminate me with forced retirement. In a January 2013 meeting with my supervisor, I was politely informed that my teaching contract for the new school year beginning in May of 2013 was not being renewed. The sole reason for this was my age. Although I was 68, my health was still good, and I hadn't missed one day of teaching during the past year. Furthermore, my mind was still very sharp, and teachers and students alike regarded me as one of the better teachers at school. Upon appealing this unfair action to the school's principal, I was given a contract for the upcoming school year but with a frozen salary, and the stipulation that both the school and I mutually agreed on my retirement in April of 2014. After an appeal and assistance from a third party, I was finally given a lawful due pay increase for my final year at the school.
Why, then, was my school so intent on forcing me into retirement? The answer lies in age discrimination, also called ageism, which I will examine in this article. After defining age discrimination and forced retirement, I will present the pros and cons of age discrimination and forced retirement in the workplace.
Age Discrimination at Work
What Is Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination, also referred to ageism, may be defined as treating a person less favorably because of age. This is often reflected in the hiring, promotion, and forced retirement policies of businesses and governments. Whenever they can get away with it through loopholes in the law, businesses and the government will hire younger people in preference to senior citizens. And when it comes to promotions, younger people are favored over their older counterparts, as I saw firsthand during my career with the government.
What Is Forced Retirement?
Forced retirement is the involuntary ending of a person's career usually through age discrimination. This can happen to an individual who is still in his or her 50s when a company is downsizing. Under the guise of early retirement with a few benefits, an employee who is still productive is coerced into forced retirement. Forced retirement can also happen to an older employee in his or her 60s. This is done by making the workplace job so unpleasant that the employee eventually gives up and accepts a forced retirement.
Forced Into Retirement: What You Should Do
Arguments for Age Discrimination and Forced Retirement
What, then, are the arguments for and justifying age discrimination and forced retirement in the workplace?
1. The Employer Saves Money
It is a fact that older employees receive a much higher salary than younger employees. In the case of my employment at a school, wouldn't it make good business sense to replace my salary with that of a younger teacher who will earn half as much as me?
If a person is working for a business or government in the United States, the employer will contribute much less to retirement benefits for a younger employee than for an older one.
2. The Older Employee Is Less Productive
Some people have made the case that a worker's productivity declines rapidly after the age of 65. This is many times reflected in the increased number of sick days taken, and the slower reaction time both mentally and physically of older workers. Older workers are often challenged by new technology and find it very difficult to learn new office computer applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and Office. In competitive professional sports such as baseball, basketball, and football, the older athlete most times in his mid or late 30s is not as good as the younger athlete.
3. More Opportunities for Younger People
If a company or the government has too many older employees, it will not be able to hire new blood in the form of younger employees. It is a fact that younger employees are more energetic and generally more able to adapt to change than the older. By examining what is reflected in today's media, it is, in fact, a young person's world. Trends and changes in business and society are initiated by younger people. In professional sports, most people recognize that it is a young person's sport. Consequently, teams are built around younger athletes rather than the older.
Arguments Against Age Discrimination and Forced Retirement
Now for the arguments against age discrimination and forced retirement which are as follows.
1. It's Unfair and Often Illegal
In many Western countries, age discrimination and forced retirement are against most laws. In Thailand, forced retirement is allowed; however, according to labor laws, the employee forced to retire from his job is entitled to severance pay. I feel that if an older employee is in good health, and has a good flexible mind to his or her job, it is unfair to force retirement.
2. Older Employees Have a Wealth of Experience
Older employees have a wealth of experience to contribute to businesses and the government. The United States persuades some of its older employees to accept an early retirement by promising them part-time contractor jobs after they retire. As a part-time contract worker, the retirement annuitant gets to mentor junior employees, and the government saves money by not keeping the older employees on as full-time workers. Unless businesses agree to keep their experienced older employees on as part-time workers and mentors, they would be foolish to let this wealth of knowledge and experience go.
3. Older Employees Have Better Work Habits and Loyalty than Junior Employees
Many older employees have much better work habits than younger workers. A senior dedicated employee will not miss much work time and will always be on time. Because the senior is not interested in upper mobility and only looking out for himself or herself, he will be more dedicated to his job with the government or a business.
It is completely understandable why my school forced me to retire with age discrimination. The school could save money, and maybe the school and students' parents prefer seeing a younger and more handsome face in the classroom. Just the same, I challenge the school to hire a younger teacher who is more dedicated, more experienced, and a better teacher than me.
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn