‘CEO Act!on for Diversity & Inclusion’ Omits Age Bias

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Tim Ryan, the CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, recently announced a new campaign to address lack of diversity in the business community that appears to target every protected group except older workers.

PWC is in the midst of an age discrimination lawsuit that alleges the corporation has made it virtually impossible for older workers to apply for entry-level jobs.

Ryan, who also is PwC’s senior partner, announced June 12 on  CBS television that PwC is taking a leadership role in  “CEO Act!on for Diversity and Inclusion.”  He said more than 150 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have signed up for the new initiative, including the leaders of IBM, Proctor and Gamble, Under Armour and CBS.

According to the campaign’s web page, the signatories agree upon the “need to address honestly and head-on the concerns and needs of our diverse employees and increase equity for all, including Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ, disabled, veterans and women.”

There is no mention of older workers.

Steve Rabin, 53, a certified public  accountant, sued PwC in 2013, claiming the corporation relies almost exclusively upon campus recruiting to fill entry-level positions and does not post job vacancies on its public web site. He alleged the only way to apply for a job is through PwC’s campus track recruitment tool, which requires a college affiliation.

The lawsuit states the average age of PwC’s workforce in 2011 was 27, while the median age of accountants and auditors in the U.S. was 43.2.

The corporation attempted unsuccessfully in February to persuade a federal judge in San Francisco to follow the lead of another federal appeals court in Atlanta and rule the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) does not permit job applicants to sue for disparate impact discrimination. This is a type of discrimination that occurs when an employer adopts a seemingly neutral practice or policy that has a disproportionate, negative impact upon a protected group. U.S. District Judge John S. Tigar denied the motion and refused PwC’s request to dismiss the case without a trial.

Signatories to the diversity campaign plan to support education about “unconscious bias” to minimize any potential “blind spots” an employee “might have but wasn’t aware of previously.” A good place to start  might be age discrimination.

Though the ADEA was passed 50 years ago to protect older workers from irrational and harmful discrimination, the problem remains hidden, epidemic and unaddressed in American society.

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Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

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