The EEOC apparently wants to crack down on tech industry employers who are engaged in blatant age discrimination in hiring but this goal may be complicated by the fact that the federal government also is engaged in blatant age discrimination in hiring.
President Barack Obama on December 27, 2010 signed an executive order creating the Pathways “Recent Graduates” program, which allows the government to bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” The program went into effect in 2012 for applicants who “have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs (2 years from the date the graduate completed an academic course of study).” The U.S. Office of Program Management also has “reinvigorated” the Pathways Presidential Management Fellows Program “for people who obtained an advanced degree (e.g., graduate or professional degree) within the preceding two years.”.
We all know the vast majority of recent graduates are under the age of 40. The term “recent graduate” is well-known code language for “older applicants need not apply.”
An EEOC official recently issued a thinly veiled threat to employers and employment agencies that advertise for “digital natives,” otherwise known as post-millennials who under the age of 40.
Silicon Valley employers want to hire younger workers. The U.S. Office of Program Management wants to hire younger workers. What’s the difference?
According to the OPM, the “Recent Graduates” program was necessary because the federal government has been “placed at a competitive disadvantage …compared to other sectors in recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates.” This seems dubious given that the “recent graduates” program was created in the waning days of the worst depression in a hundred years, when younger workers were facing double-digit unemployment. It seems more likely that the OPM wants an infusion of younger workers to replace older workers who are retiring. However,the OPM’s motivation for age discrimination should be irrelevant.
It is a violation of the spirit and the letter of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to give preferential treatment to workers under the age of 40 and to refuse to hire qualified older workers. The ADEA states:
- Employers cannot fail or refuse to hire any individual “because of such individual’s age,” and/or
- Print and publish “any notice or advertisement relating to employment … indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination, based on age.”
Civilized societies do not encourage or permit invidious discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, religion, national origin and disability. This kind of arbitrary discrimination is considered to be morally reprehensible because it causes severe harm and suffering to individuals. It also harms society and lowers productivity. It seems unlikely that President Obama and the OPM would ever deem it acceptable to select applicants on the basis of race (“white’s only”) or religion. Then why is it okay to choose applicants on the basis of youth?
In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I argue that age discrimination essentially has been legalized in the United States. The ADEA was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. But President Obama’s executive order literally legalizes age discrimination.
SimplyHired.com on Wednesday listed 111 jobs for “digital natives” and 128,000 jobs for “recent graduates.” Meanwhile, USAJobs, the federal government’s internet hiring site, listed 75 jobs for “recent graduates.” Three of those jobs were for positions at the U.S. Department of Labor, which surely should know better. Thankfully, the EEOC was not among the federal agencies seeking a recent graduate!