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By: Keith Kessler

“Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.” 

— Mae West (lived to age 89)

Patient:  Doctor, it seems like it’s been 2 or 3 years since my last annual mammogram.  Aren’t I overdue at this point?

Dr.:  Well, you’re 80- plus, aren’t you?  We generally don’t do anymore testing for a woman your age.  And, candidly, our policy is not to conduct most medical procedures from age 70 on unless there’s an actual problem to address.

Patient:  Seriously — are you writing me off?

Dr.:  Of course not.  It’s just a general rule in the medical community — when you reach a certain age, it becomes economically impractical to. . . .

Although COVID-19 temporarily reduced life expectancy tables, people in their 70s and 80s who weren’t adversely impacted by the epidemic continue to work and thrive, experiencing the satisfaction of being useful and making a difference, large or small.  To take that away from us after decades of hard work and loyal dedication to our job and our employer seems harsh and insensitive.

And it is. 

And that’s why Washington law treats “older Americans”  as a protected class — guarded by a legal system that prohibits discrimination based on age.

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), suit can be brought against an employer for age discrimination if the employer refuses to hire or promote someone on the basis of age if that person is between the ages of 40 and 70.  RCW 49.60.180 provides that it is an unfair practice for any employer (1) to refuse to hire any person because of age, (2) to discharge any person from employment because of their age, and (3) to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other conditions of employment because of age.

An example of the law protecting older Americans from discrimination is Scrivener v. Clark College, 181 Wn.2d 439, 334 P.3d 541 (2014).   Kathryn Scrivener, a 55-year-old college English instructor, had applied for a tenure track teaching position.  At some point, the college president stated publicly that there was a “glaring need” for younger talent within the college’s faculty.   When the college then hired two teachers under the age of 40 instead of her, Ms. Scrivener brought suit for employment discrimination, pointing out that she met the qualifications for the position.  The Washington Supreme Court held that the college president’s public statement was circumstantial evidence probative of discriminatory intent.

It’s not a matter of just being respectful — it’s the law.

“I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life.” – Louise May

 “Grow old with me.”