Does “Idol” Discriminate?

Recently I posed the question of whether American Idol’s Simon Cowell is a workplace bully.  (See  Now employment lawyer Ellen Simon has posted a blog entry asking if American Idol’s requirement that contestants be under 30 is violative of age discrimination laws:

My husband  is a pretty good singer (for sure I have a bit of a bias) and we have a good time at karaoke clubs.  My son is an agent in the entertainment business.  I  mentioned to my son that I thought it would be fun if my husband tried out for American Idol — not that he would win of course, but that it would be fun to go to a tryout. After he stopped laughing he said:

He can’t try out

Why not?  I said.

Because he’s not under 30.

Yes, that’s right.  In order to try out for American Idol you have to be under thirty years of age.

It’s an interesting question and post, triggered by the Internet phenomenon of Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old Scottish singer whose audition before Britain’s Got Talent wowed the judges and led to a YouTube video ( that has been viewed by some 50 million people.  Boyle’s success and her touching story makes American Idol’s under-30 policy seem rather, well, callow, legal questions aside.  At the very least, the policy is reflective of our nation’s obsession with youth and accompanying notions of attractiveness.

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