The EEOC at its June 14 meeting plans to “launch” a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) called, “The ADEA @ 50 – More Relevant Than Ever.”
The title is oddly neutral and ignores the reality that the ADEA for years has been largely irrelevant to epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination in the United States. This is not a surprise, of course, given the irrelevance of the EEOC. Consider:
- Though 22.8 percent of the 99,503 charges of workplace discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC in 2016 involved age discrimination, the EEOC filed only two lawsuits with age discrimination claims that year. The EEOC also filed two lawsuits in 2016 under the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, which comprised three percent of all complaints filed with the EEOC that year.
- The small fraction of cases where the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that age discrimination occurred were automatically diverted to mediation – which is a free service provided by the EEOC that allows employers to settle age discrimination cases out of court for peanuts without any admission of guilt. Victims of age discrimination – two-thirds of whom have lost their jobs – typically walk away with less than $20,000. Most are not represented by an attorney and have no real choice but to settle because the EEOC refuses to go to court to enforce the ADEA on their behalf.
- According to its web site: “The EEOC’s Attorney Honor Program hires third-year law students, full-time graduate law students, and judicial law clerks for permanent agency positions.” Given that the vast majority of students and clerks are under the age of 30, this program has an obvious disparate impact on older attorneys. The ADEA prohibits using age as a factor in hiring decisions. Moreover, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the ADEA into law in 1967, he said, “This act does not compel employers and labor unions and employment agencies to choose a person aged 40 to 65 over another person. It does require that one simple question be answered fairly: Who has the best qualifications for the job?”
In my groundbreaking book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I suggest that the EEOC wastes the time and money of the vast majority of age discrimination victims, who are required to file their complaints first with the Agency and then wait 60 days before they can go to court. In almost all instances, the EEOC spits out a “right to sue” form letter giving the complainant permission to file an individual lawsuit against the employer.
It is not likely that the EEOC’s own failure – one might say, dereliction of duty – to enforce the ADEA will be raised by invited panelists at the upcoming commemoration. A cynic might suppose that this is one reason that these panelists were invited to the event and not moi, the author of Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.
For the record, in my book, I urge Congress to repeal the ADEA and make age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin. Older workers should at least receive the same legal rights accorded to other victims of irrational and harmful employment discrimination. At present, Title VII offers far more protection to victims of discrimination than does the ADEA.
The EEOC states the upcoming meeting “will explore the state of age discrimination in America today and the challenges it poses for the future.”
The meeting is open “for public observation,” which, given the fact it is taking place in Washington, DC, probably means it will be attended mostly by lobbyists and attorneys who represent major employers. It is unfortunate the EEOC is not streaming the meeting for general public consumption over the internet. Again, this is not surprising given that the EEOC does not, as yet, permit discrimination victims to file their complaints on-line.