When Age Discrimination Strikes, Utility Bills Go Unpaid

By Arthur Bridgeforth Jr.

Unemployment since 2014 without any job prospects has left Francine T. frustrated and she thinks age discrimination may be why.

Despite attempts to cope with the situation, Francine of Baltimore, finds herself broke, with several unpaid utility bills, and behind on her mortgage.

“I did have a little nest egg which I was able to live off of and I’m resourceful, so I was able to get some consulting work here and there so I’ve been okay,” she said. “Basically, I’ve been managing and I went out and got a temp job, then when I lost that in November I had absolutely nothing left.”

Francine said she is usually the resource person that points others in the right direction. However, when she needed help, she was able to turn to the 211 information hotline in Maryland. She contacted the service to get information on getting assistance paying her outstanding utility bills.

Among those bills was an overdue $571 water bill that might eventually lead to a lien on her Baltimore home. But thanks to 211 directing her to The Human Utility, the water bill is she can now pay.

She filled out the application for assistance with The Human Utility earlier in April, and two weeks later, she was given news that she would be assisted with her water bill.

“Yes, everything happened pretty quickly,” she said.

Life for Francine wasn’t always filled with a stack of unpaid bills and the uncertainty of ever landing full-time employment again.

In fact, she worked for 16 years for her most recent employer, has owned a three-bedroom rowhouse in the heart of East Baltimore for 22-years. Not once did she miss a mortgage payment. She also raised four children—two girls and two boys—to adulthood.

Despite the employment setbacks, Francine isn’t giving up. In fact, she spends her time at a career center diligently looking for another job.

Francine, 58, said her résumé notes years of work experience and the two masters degrees she earned in public administration and special education. But, the corresponding graduation dates for those degrees may be precluding her from finding work.

“I think it’s because my resume reflects my age,” she said. “I’m not old enough to get Social Security, but my experience and stuff, like when you say you have 20 or 30-years experience doing stuff, people assume you’re over-the-hill or have some disability and that’s not the case. My wellness level is probably better than the average 30-year-old in Baltimore.”

Francine’s concern about her age isn’t far-fetched. A study published in 2015 found that age discrimination is a much worse problem for women than men, as they may suffer from both age and sex discrimination. And in Francine’s case, even race could play a role.

She has heeded suggestions of advisors in the career center such as removing graduation dates from her résumé. She continues to tweak her résumé in other ways as well. Ultimately, Francine awaits the time when her résumé leads her to another job, even despite what her career center case manager recently told her.

“He(the case manager) tells me things like – ‘well your résumé can be intimidating but don’t be discouraged,’” she said. “I don’t see anybody in HR who will be intimidated by my resume.”