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Preventing Age-ism

Coming out of retirement, back into the work force, I noticed "age-ism" in a big way Thought I'd share this article with my fellow business owners

Preventing Age Discrimination
Develop Tenure Employees
March 18, 2014

You like Stanley.

For twenty years, he’s been a reliable member of your accounts payable team.

He shows up on schedule.
He gets along with most everyone.
And he’s surely competent at his job.
Not that his job is that difficult. He performs a mundane but necessary support role – matching invoices with purchase orders, verifying freight, checking orders, updating vendor information, preparing check runs, making journal entries. He even helps out with collections when there’s a lull on the payables side.

Stanley is 52 years old.
He will likely continue to work for you at least another 10 years.
Stanley’s now making almost $70K per year.
Every year, along with the rest of your people, he gets a bump in salary. And over the years, this has added up. And this occurs to you as you’re reviewing paychecks. You start thinking to yourself: Wait… I’m paying my accounts payable staff person almost $70,000 per year! You ask around. You look online. And it becomes apparent that you could easily get a much younger person to do the job for almost half that amount of money.

So what do you do? Do you keep Stanley around or do you replace him with someone younger and less expensive?

Of course there are legal considerations. You surely can’t just fire someone because he’s old, can you? There are age discrimination laws that protect employees against this, right? Age alone isn’t a good rationale for letting someone go. It has to be something related to his performance. Maybe you can justify that a younger person can get more done and handle more complex transactions. You’re sure you’ve never done anything in the past that would lead Stanley to accuse you of age discrimination. Even so, you’d need to talk to a lawyer. Legal considerations always play a significant part in your decision to hire or fire anyone.

But it’s not just legal. It’s ethical too. Here’s a guy who’s been hard working. Loyal. Dependable. Trustworthy. And you’re just going to throw him out on the street? Even if you do offer him a generous severance and references it’s still difficult for anyone, let alone a 50 year old man, to hit the streets looking for a job again. And you would do this to him for the sake of a few bucks?

No you wouldn’t. Because that’s not what smart business owners do. Finding someone that is not only loyal, dependable and trustworthy, let alone who knows your business, your suppliers, your customers, your people inside and out is someone that should never be let go. This is not charity. This is good business.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t make some changes. Maybe Stanley is an overpaid Accounts Payable Clerk. Then change his role. Bring in the lower priced person and find another place in your company where he can contribute. Can he get more involved with collections? Can he learn to sell? Can he do something in the warehouse? Isn’t there something else he could be doing that will provide to you more value? Of course there is. If Stanley resists the change then that’s another matter altogether. You’re trying to help him grow and also trying to find another way for him to contribute. If he doesn’t want to take that option then fair enough…he can leave.

But hopefully that won’t happen. Older employees, particularly the ones that have been with your company for a long time are extremely valuable. Don’t just replace them with someone younger and less expensive. Replace what they’re doing. Then find something else that they can do to add value to your company.


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