EEOC: Do Qualifications matter or not?

The EEOC appears to be hopelessly confused about the significance of  qualifications in age discrimination case.

This week, the EEOC filed a rare lawsuit alleging age discrimination in hiring. The  EEOC charges that CBS Stations Group of Texas violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act  (ADEA) when it failed to hire Tammy Campbell, 42, for a full-time traffic reporter position because of her age.  An EEOC press release states the station hired a 24-year old female applicant  who was less qualified than Campbell.

The case contradicts the EEOC’s dismissal last month of a lawsuit filed by a 60-year-old woman who was rejected for one of five attorney positions with the Social Security Administration. The novice hiring officer testified the woman was more qualified than some or all of the younger applicants but that he didn’t consider objective qualifications. He said he based his hiring decisions entirely upon whom he thought would be the best fit for the “culture” of the agency.

Do qualifications count, as in the Texas case, or are they irrelevant, as in the Social Security case?

EEOC actions are usually secret unless the EEOC files a lawsuit. In the Social Security case, the woman complained the EEOC ignored serious procedural irregularities and rendered a decision that was grossly unfair. It’s fair to wonder how many older women have gone to the EEOC over the years only to meet with a deaf ear.

This blog subsequently pointed out that the EEOC in a 2006 compliance manual stated that hiring based on cultural fit is discriminatory in cases involving race and color. Also, hiring for “cultural fit” is considered discriminatory by the business community. The EEOC refused to comment.

On Wednesday, this blog asked the EEOC media office: “What exactly is the EEOC’s position on qualifications with respect to age discrimination?”  If a response is forthcoming, it will be reported.

The EEOC’s job is to establish clear guidelines for employers, not to send them conflicting messages.

With respect to the Texas case, EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark said “the station clearly preferred a younger face and a less-qualified applicant based on unfounded stereotypes about female reporters in broadcast television.” (Hmmm … that’s essentially what happened in the Social Security case involving the 60-year-old woman but the EEOC said that was not age discrimination.)

Campbell, 42, had worked for CBS 11 as a freelance traffic reporter since 2013. The  station issued a job announcement stating the ideal applicant would have five years of experience and be familiar with the viewing area. The EEOC said the successful 24-year-old applicant “did not have five years’ professional broadcasting experience, nor did she have any broadcast experience in the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) metro area.”

Research shows that age discrimination in hiring is a particular problem for older women. Yet, the EEOC has virtually ignored the problem for a decade.  In 2016, the agency received more than 22,000 complaints of age discrimination but filed only two lawsuits with age discrimination “claims.”

CBS Stations Group of Texas is a division of New York-based CBS Corporation. CBS Corporation owns and operates a group of 29 television stations throughout the United States.

The Texas lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (EEOC v. CBS Broadcasting Inc., d/b/a CBS Stations Group of Texas, KTXA-TV and KTVT-TV; Civil Action No. 3:17-CV02624-M) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC’s  n the Social Security case is Hortencia R. v. Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Appeal No. 0120150228 (August 24, 2017). The name of the complainant is a pseudonym as is the EEOC’s practice.

 

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Author: pgb

Attorney at Law, author and blogger.

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