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February 20, 2020

Is “Ok Boomer” any more inappropriate than Millennial Bashing?

I hear this comment a lot. 

“Baby Boomers are so offended by ‘Ok Boomer’ yet they’ve been millennial bashing for years and have found it to be totally appropriate.” 

It’s a valid point. 

Why do many feel that it’s okay to bash down the generational ladder, but not up the generational ladder? And, is one indeed more appropriate in the workplace than the other?

I think the moral answer is absolutely not. Despite the fact they most of us were raised to have a special amount of respect for our elders, in the workplace, many would say that respect is a two-way street, with bike lanes now 😀.  But apparently the legal answer, in most states, is yes! 

Reading a piece by Elizabeth Tippett (@tippettLiz), Why saying ‘OK boomer’ at work is considered age discrimination-- be millennial put-downs aren’t, I was reminded that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 only kicks in for employees 40 years of age and older (primarily Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and above). The Act protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment

You may ask, Well, is saying ‘ok boomer’ really age discrimination though?”

According to Tippett, “Comments that relate to a worker’s age are a problem because older workers often face negative employment decisions, like a layoff or being passed over for promotion. The only way to tell whether a decision like that is tainted by age discrimination is the surrounding context: comments and behavior by managers and coworkers.”

“If a manager said “OK boomer” to an older worker’s presentation at a meeting, that would make management seem biased,” Trippett says. “Even if that manager simply tolerated a joke made by someone else, it would suggest the boss was in on it.”

So, it seems that saying ‘ok boomer’ could very well be deemed as age discrimination in some cases. But should Millennial bashing, too, be deemed as age discrimination in a similar case? Should the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 be changed to protect those of all ages from age discrimination and not just those over 40? What do you think? 

I will point out that some Millennials will soon inherently become protected by the law as the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year, which may come as a surprise to some. 

My goal here, as always, is to spur conversation. I welcome all opinions and thoughts. As a Generations Keynote Speaker who studies and works with all generations, I am representing neither “side” here. I simply represent the place of generational inclusion, equity and belonging for all, which brings us to this point for discussion. 

Let’s discuss.

  • Should Millennial bashing, too, be deemed as age discrimination, as would ‘ok boomer’ in a similar case described above?
  • Should the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 be changed to protect those of all ages from age discrimination and not just those over 40?
  • Is ‘ok boomer’ more inappropriate than Millennial bashing?

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Raven Solomon

Raven is a multigenerational leadership expert, the author of Leading Your Parents, and a nationally renowned Generations Keynote Speaker.

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