BOSTON. Carl Zucker was crushed in 1979 when he didn’t make the annual “30 Under 30″ list of the Boston Weekly Merchant, a feature that highlights up-and-coming members of the city’s business community. “I did everything right,” he says. “I was a top life insurance salesman, I wore ugly power ties, I volunteered as a Big Brother and even offered to be a Big Sister if needed.”
Zucker: Has-been wannabe.
His failure was repeated in 1989 when he didn’t make the “40 Under 40″ list, but he put his disappointment behind him and soldiered on, eventually rising to become a Senior Vice President of John Adams Life Insurance Company and a respected figure in charitable circles.
But this year, at the age of 59, Zucker found himself less than a decade away from his company’s mandatory retirement age and still feeling the sting of those earlier snubs. “I decided to do something about it,” he says angrily. “I wasn’t going to ride off into the sunset without ever having achieved the radiant glow of youth.”
“My client is not too old to be considered somewhat young!”
So Zucker hired a lawyer to sue the business publication on the grounds of age discrimination. “You can’t keep a man off a list of distinguished people under 40 just because he’s 59,” says Noel Bloom, Carl’s attorney. “It’s age discrimination, pure and simple.”
“With all due respect for my brother lawyer, he’s an idiot.”
After Bloom prevailed on a motion to dismiss brought by the newspaper, the parties were able to hammer out a settlement that, while it achieves less than Zucker sought, enables him to say that he made the list of high-achieving young professionals.
“When I was your age, I’d already been a failure–twice.”
“We created a Senior Division of ’30 Under 30′, a ’60 Under 60′ list that recognizes people over 55 who in retrospect must have accomplished a lot before they were 30 because otherwise how would they ever have gotten as far as they did,” says Boston Weekly Merchant editor Larry Zalkind. “Now maybe the old geezers will stop picketing outside our offices.”