“Using my experience bringing and winning a lawsuit against age discrimination in the workplace, I want to raise my voice against this common yet nearly invisible form of discrimination.”
For 27 years Julianne Taaffe taught English as a Second Language at Ohio State University, a job she loved although it didn’t pay a lot, and it didn’t get a whole lot of attention, except perhaps one-on-one. But it always challenged her and required her to think creatively, sometimes made her laugh, and required her to examine her own, possibly culturally constrained, assumptions, preconceptions and opinions. Working with, and learning from, bright, thoughtful and interesting international students and scholars widened her perspective, keeping her engaged with the social, environmental and educational issues that link us locally and across the globe. This is why, in 2015, she decided to fight back when Ohio State “reclassified” her and eleven other older, experienced ESL teachers out of their full-time positions. She and another colleague, with the help of two Ohio civil rights lawyers and the AARP, sued the University for age-discrimination and won. They were reinstated and accepted a remarkable settlement from Ohio State, an unusual outcome in an age discrimination complaint, particularly one involving a major Midwestern university. The four-year, grueling, fascinating, frustrating and exhilarating experience was her tipping point, and she’s grateful for it. She learned that she has a voice, and that, to her surprise, she is not afraid to use it. After having been prodded and provoked into speaking up for herself and her colleagues, seeking and receiving support from key sources, she has been able to move forward at age 62, with a new job in ESL, and in a new direction that will allow her to continue to speak up. She’d like to use her experience with institutional age discrimination and her teaching, writing, photography and digital story-telling experience to amplify the voices of others who find themselves subject to the “invisible discrimination.”
Learn more here about the Encore Public Voices Fellowship, which supports diverse voices focusing on aging, longevity and the intergenerational opportunity.