In his address to the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, GOP Presidential hopeful Donald Trump said something that could have tremendous impact on the problem of age discrimination in employment.
He promised to immediately cancel all of President Barack Obama’s “illegal and overreaching executive orders.”
Older workers have been subject to blatant age discrimination in hiring by our nation’s largest employer, the U.S. government, since President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that essentially created an exemption to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) for federal agencies.
President Obama’s order allows federal agencies to bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” The ADEA unambiguously states that it is unlawful for any employer “to fail or refuse to hire” any individual “because of such individual’s age.” Obama’s order has a disparate impact upon older workers because the vast majority of recent graduates are under age 30.
Paradoxically, President Obama claimed that merit-based civil service rules put the federal government at a “competitive disadvantage compared to private-sector employers when it comes to hiring qualified applicants for entry-level positions.” The point of civil service regulations is, of course, to hire the best qualified applicant. Obama’s order enables federal agencies to hire young applicants with fewer qualifications than older applicants.
It is undoubtedly true, as Obama observed, that recent graduates “infuse the workplace with their enthusiasm, talents, and unique perspectives.” But so do older workers. Age does not limit enthusiasm, talent or the uniqueness of one’s perspective.
In any case, the significance of Obama’s order is not limited to federal hiring; it sends a message to private sector employers that age discrimination in hiring is reasonable and justifiable. That message was reaffirmed when Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez endorsed a private initiative last year by America’s largest corporation to hire only workers aged 16 to 24. Is it coincidental that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has virtually ignored blatant and overt age discrimination in hiring for years?
Trump is not known to be a civil rights champion and it is not clear he would cancel Obama’s executive order establishing the Pathways Recent Graduate Program or even that he is aware of the problem of age discrimination in federal hiring. And his opponent, GOP candidate Hillary Clinton, might come out and advocate for equal opportunity hiring in the weeks ahead.
One can only hope that this election will end the overt age discrimination in hiring sanctioned by the Obama administration which has relegated tens of thousands of older workers of all races each year to chronic under-employment, unemployment and forced retirement and unemployment.