Watch out, you senior workers!
It used to be that the old axiom, "first hired, last fired,"
offered veteran employees some protection in an economic slump.
Don't count on that pattern in the current downturn in the United
In the 1981-82 recession, the job-loss rates of older men (age 45-
59) were 40 percent lower than those of younger men (25-39). In the
1990-91 recession, the job-loss rates of older workers were at
least as high as those of younger workers, according to a study by
the International Longevity Center - USA, a New York research
The same job peril could face older workers in today's rush of
corporate layoffs, suspects one author of the study, economist
Marjorie Honig. So seniority doesn't offer as much of a buffer
against being laid off as it did prior to the 1990s. For one thing,
fewer senior blue-collar workers are protected under union
contracts. Perhaps the New Economy culture has less respect for
But for those 40 and over working for a firm with 20 or more
employees, the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act and
subsequent legislation provides some legal protection for fair
treatment in layoffs, retirement provisions, hiring, promotions,
"The predominant effect of age discrimination legislation has
been to reduce the likelihood that firms renege on long-term
commitments to older, higher-paid workers and consequently to
strengthen long-term relationships between workers and firms,"
reckons economist David Neumark, a visiting fellow at the Public
Policy Institute of California, in San Francisco.
Also, federal and state laws banning age discrimination have
boosted relative employment of older workers and reduced the
retirement of older individuals, Mr. Neumark finds in a lengthy
study for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Nonetheless, Ellen Vargyas, legal counsel at the Equal Employment
Opportunities Commission in Washington, says she's "constantly
astonished" at what some employers do to their workers - despite the
The EEOC is already anticipating a jump in age-discrimination
cases as layoffs multiply. EEOC spokesman David Grinberg notes that
employers have become "more subtle" and "less overt" when
discriminating against older Americans.
For instance, company officials don't tell a job applicant
bluntly that he or she is "too old." They find some more proper
excuse for not hiring the person. …