Archive for January, 2012


Age discrimination suits hurt young people

A man at Citigroup recently filed a lawsuit saying he was forced out of his position due to his age. The court ruled that the man’s case did not rise to the level of age discrimination as determined by federal law.

The evidence for the case included some statements by the man’s boss including things like “you should retire soon” and “you’re getting long in the tooth for this sort of thing.” At first it seems like this is a legitimate complaint, but it’s very hard to prove these sorts of cases for several reasons. First, job performance does have a real correlation with age. So, making racist comments to someone is an easy way to prove discrimination because there is no good explanation for why race should make a difference in someone’s job. However, people can perform worse at a task as they age (they may, in some cases, perform it better because of experience), and so make age an appropriate complaint about their appropriateness for  a job. The military for example does not let you enlist past 35 I believe, just because storming beaches and fighting in deserts is a young man’s game. This goes for young people too. What if I were fired for being too young, for being a whipper-snapper, or whatever. Does this show I wasn’t wanted at a job, simply because of my age, or that I wasn’t wanted because my age was the reason that I lacked the necessary level of seriousness and experience. If the latter, than my firing would be appropriate (all else equal).

The other thing I would like to mention is that if winning these sorts of age discrimination suits were to become easier, then less young people would be hired in the aggregate. First, they would be hired less because young people’s suit would make them more risky. A company that would otherwise take a risk on me even though I’m young will think twice if, once I’m hired, I have the possibility of turning around and suing them when I don’t work out. Also, easier age discrimination suits means people like the 62(?) year old are harder to firer. If they stay around longer, then less positions open up in the company.