50 is not the new 30 when you need a job 5

By Scott R. Ames

I’m turning 50 on Saturday, and my wife and friends tell me that “50 is the new 30.”  There’s even a blog named after this phrase.

While gyms and trendy cafés are filled with these “50 are the new 30 year-olds,” the job market tells a much different and more sobering story.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when older workers lose their jobs, the re-employment rate for individuals between 55 and 64 is 47 percent (dropping to 24 percent for those over 65), compared with a 62 percent re-employment rate for 20 to 54 year-olds.  The average length of unemployment for older workers is 46 weeks, compared with 20 weeks for younger workers.  When older workers find new employment, their median salary loss is 18 percent compared with a 6.7 percent drop for 20 to 24 year-olds.

This data doesn’t match the rosy picture my wife is painting about me turning 50.  And it gets worse.  In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court issued Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 2343 (2009), making it harder to win age discrimination claims brought under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act than claims brought on race, sex, and other bases covered by Title VII.  Under California law, the standards are the same but some courts seem to require more evidence of age-related comments and age-bashing than they do for other forms of discrimination.

For example, in Sandell v. Taylor-Listug, Inc. 188 Cal.App.4th 297 (2010), a San Diego Superior Court judge dismissed 60-year old Robert Sandell’s age and disability discrimination lawsuit  before trial, despite being provided with evidence that Mr. Sandell was replaced by a younger employee, that the company’s President stated at meetings that he wanted to replace older workers with younger employees, that employees over 50 were being replaced with substantially younger new hires, and that the company’s founder told Mr. Sandell that he “is old” and is “getting up there.”  Fortunately, the Court of Appeals reversed the San Diego Superior Court’s decision and allowed Mr. Sandell’s case to go before a jury, but this case highlights the uphill battle employees face when bringing claims based on age discrimination.

Finally, the social, emotional and financial impact on older workers who lose their jobs can be  devastating.  People are living longer and are having children later in life, and many cannot afford to “retire” or be forced out of work in their 50s, 60s or even 70s.  In addition, an employee over 50 may have worked for the same employer for many years, so that losing a job results in the loss  of an integral social network.

As I approach 50, my professional commitment to advancing the rights of older workers has become a little more personal.  Jokes about “Having a senior moment” no longer sound so funny or hit a little too close to home, because in the job market 50 is definitely not the new 30.

Scott Ames

About Scott Ames

Scott Ames has been litigating wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, family and medical leave, breach of contract, wage and hour violations, unfair competition and trade secret matters, and other employee rights cases for over two decades. Mr. Ames’ demonstrated record of success has resulted in him being named among the Top 100 Attorneys in Southern California in 2012 and 2013, a “Southern California Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine from 2007 through 2014, and a “Best Lawyer in America” from 2006 through 2014. Mr. Ames is also active in his community, and has served on a number of committees and boards of non-profit organizations which seek to improve the lives of the disenfranchised or working poor.

5 thoughts on “50 is not the new 30 when you need a job

  1. Reply Jeff Krivis Sep 6,2013 11:25 am

    Very thoughtful Scott.

  2. Reply Beth L Sep 6,2013 5:09 pm

    Add the fact that retirement funds don’t exist for most workers, and you find that many of us have used up our savings buying food between jobs.

    I will never be able to retire, but at 55, I’m already too old to be an attractive hire. Childless and divorced, an only child with parents already gone, the future looks particularly bleak, even with a college degree. And I am not alone. I will not give up, but it is very discouraging to be overqualified and underappreciated at the same time.

    • Scott Ames Reply Scott Ames Sep 13,2013 4:30 pm


      I like your fighting spirit. I have two kids under 6 so I’ll never be able to retire either. I think many people will find it difficult to retire (assuming they still have jobs), and our government has done nothing to create a security net for people who are at or beyond normal retirement age.

  3. Reply Maria Guzman Sep 6,2013 11:51 pm

    I receive monthly journals from my pipefitters union, and during my 18 20 years I rarely see women in the higher elected officers positions.
    What I have also learned along the way it is the norm and nothing is ever going to change because most of these white males are appointed then become infinite incumbents and never worry about being laid off like the rank and file members.

    I detest the fact how they engage all the members to vote blindly without thought for candidate which continue to favor their control at the same time they do not include women in the same opportunities within the organization unless she has graduated from a university and is a relative.
    Then most of these older white men continue push the issue that they need to replace the older members with new to continue to feed their huge officers pensions, conventions, all the perks which come with these anointed ones.

    They also take away the older retired workers ability to work even in jobs such as in a hardware store or risk losing the small pittance of a pension which has not increased at all compared to the cost of fuel, housing and medical care.
    These very same vultures who have all these amenities and benefits have made it easy for them to retire and collect pensions at the same time they are appointed officers making over $200,000 a year yet they penalize the rank and file to make a crumb to help offset rising cost of food. The death of unions are not caused by Republicans, they are dying from within by these so called anointed officials.

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