MLK, the EEOC & Age Discrimination

MLKIt’s hard not to be cynical when the EEOC leadership trumpets its commitment to the ideals of Martin Luther King but ignores the reality of age discrimination in employment and, worse, engages in it.

EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic tweeted on MLK Day yesterday:

“Every day at the EEOC, we are reminded of Dr. King’s work, his vision, his prophecy. Our work is a deep part of his legacy. His call to service is what each member of the EEOC brings to our work every day.”

That’s a worthy sentiment but the EEOC has yet to walk the talk when it comes to age inequality.

Not only has the EEOC virtually ignored the problem for years but it sanctions age discrimination in hiring by the federal government and actually  engages in the practice itself, thereby undermining enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 in the private sector.

Dr. King understandably focused on the crisis of racial inequality in the United States but his appeal was based on the underlying concept of equal justice for all.  One can only wonder whether Dr. King, who was assasinated at age 39, would have recognized that age discrimination is a major hindrance to older minority group workers if he had lived.

In addition to the EEOC, the U.S. Congress ignores the problem of age discrimination and the U.S. Supreme Court accords age discrimination its lowest standard of review – mere rationality – a far lower standard than the Court accords to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin or religion. A law that discriminates on the basis of age need only be rational to survive the U.S. Supreme Court’s review.

Moreover, it is supremely ironic that our nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, signed an executive order in 2010 allowing federal agencies to refuse to hire older workers. The Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program so far has cost older workers almost 100,000 jobs and counting.

Here are some quotes from Dr. King:

  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
  • “There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November.”

And here a couple of bonus quotes for the EEOC:

  • “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
  • “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

If older workers can do the job, they have a fundamental right not to be arbitrarily fired or driven out, dispatched in thinly disguised layoffs or omitted from consideration in the hiring process.  Who would deny that older workers have a right to equal justice under the law?

And, b.t.w.,  Research shows that women are, by far, the worst victims of age discrimination in hiring.

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Old Men and Sexual Harassment

Why are so many perpetrators of sexual harassment old men in $500 suits?

Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, Jr., is 88.  Television personalities Charlies Rose and Bill O’Reilly are aged 75 and 68, respectively. Michigan Democratic Senator Al Franken, is 66.  Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and would-be Republican Senator Roy Moore is 70. Hollywood movie producer  Harvey Weinstein is 65.  Etc.

It is not coincidental that so many  harassers are older. After-all, it usually takes many years to become rich and powerful. However, the age of harassers is incidental. It’s the $500 suit (a metaphor for money and power) that really matters.

Sexual harassment is an abuse of power. Hence, few CEOs file sexual harassment complaints.

Many of the politicians and personalities who were unmasked as harassers in recent months are deeply entrenched in  positions of power.  They use that power in two ways –  to abuse people with less power and to protect themselves from any consequences arising from their bad behavior. They know the system works to protect them, and not the targets of their abuse.

The “system” protects those in power – not their victims.

Continue reading “Old Men and Sexual Harassment”

EEOC Rulings Validate Hiring Youngest Candidates with Fewest Objective Qualifications

The EEOC, in recent rulings, appears to have completely subverted the stated goal of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is to insure the most qualified candidate gets the job.

When former President Lyndon Johnson signed the ADEA fifty years ago, qualifications referred to criteria that were largely capable of objective measurement,  like education, experience and achievement.

In August, the director of the Office of Federal Operations, Carlton M. Hadden, Jr., issued at least two decisions finding no discrimination in cases where highly-qualified applicants were passed over for much younger applicants with far few objective qualifications.

Hadden ruled that a white male police detective, 48, with 20 years of high-level experience in law enforcement, failed to show he was more qualified for the position of lead police officer  at the Dallas veteran’s medical center than a female African-American in her 20s whose experience was limited to a stint in the Army military police. Hadden said the female candidate “arguably has more experience in the intangible areas sought by the (hiring panel), such as poise, compassion, leadership, and the ability to cope with stress …”

Hadden ignored the significance of procedural irregularities in the hiring process because, he said, the complainant didn’t prove the veteran’s center intended to discriminate when it failed to follow its own regulations and the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement in the hiring process. Continue reading “EEOC Rulings Validate Hiring Youngest Candidates with Fewest Objective Qualifications”

Texas Roadhouse Suit Settled $12 million

texas-roadhouseA major age discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Texas Roadhouse was settled out of court Friday for $12 million.

A four-week trial in the cased ended in February in a hung jury. The retrial was scheduled for next month.

The EEOC brought a class action “pattern or practice” lawsuit against the Kentucky-based company in 2011 charging  the chain had refused for years to hire workers aged 40 and above for front-of-the-house positions (i.e. servers, hosts, server assistants and bartenders).

Clearly, $12 million won’t break the bank for Texas Roadhouse, a national restaurant chain that  earned $400 million in gross profits in 2016. However, Texas Roadhouse also  agreed, as part of the settlement, to stop discriminating on the basis of age in the future and to increase its recruitment and hiring of employees aged 40 and older for front-of-the-house positions.

Hopefully, the case will serve as a warning to other national restaurant chains that refuse to hire older workers for front–of-the-house positions.

The EEOC also said Texas Roadhouse will establish the position of diversity director and pay for a compliance monitor to oversee the terms of the three and a half-year consent decree. Continue reading “Texas Roadhouse Suit Settled $12 million”

W.H. Aging Conf. Goes Out with a Whimper

The 2015 White House Conference on Aging released its final report Tuesday without mentioning rampant age discrimination in employment or the financial plight of older Americans caused by the collapse of Wall Street.

Celia Munoz, director of the Obama administration’s Domestic Policy Council,  congratulated the Obama administration for accomplishing a “great deal” while recognizing there is still much more work to do.  Munoz  assures us that a “better informed vision for aging in America” emerged from the Conference.

To some, the conference was a disappointing public relations event. The Obama administration partnered with the AARP, which actually organized regional events. The AARP is the nation’s leading purveyor of Medi-gap health insurance to older adults. Not surprisingly, a major theme of the Conference was healthy aging.

Conference organizers completely ignored repeated pleas to examine the link between elder poverty, the on-going epidemic of age discrimination in hiring and the disappearance of defined benefit pensions.

Some of the Conference’s highly-touted initiatives come far too late to help older adults today. For example, Obama proposed a portable retirement account that workers can take from job to job and  a law requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests.

An alarming percentage of America’s older adults today literally have no money, having lost jobs, homes and savings in the financial meltdown.

The Social Security Administration estimates the average Social Security benefit is $13,000 a year, from which Medicare payments are then deducted.  For 36 percent of recipients, Social Security provides 90 percent or more of their income.  For 24 percent of recipients, it is the sole source of retirement income.

The White House has held a Conference on Aging every decade since 1961. The 2015 Conference was a shell of its predecessors because, according to the administration, Congress failed to allocate sufficient funds for the event. In the past,  delegates from around the country converged in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to  improve the quality of life of older Americans.

It seems more likely that the plight of older adults is simply not a priority for either Congress or the Obama administration.

There’s always 2025?

 

 

Study Finds Age Discrimination is Particularly Bad for Women

goddess-of-justice


Illegal age discrimination in hiring is rampant and is particularly bad for older women.

These conclusions were reached in a study released Monday by three economists – David Neumark and Ian Burn of the University of California at Irvine and Patrick Button of Tulane University.

The researchers sent out fictional resumes in response to 40,000 job ads and found that callbacks were much higher for younger groups no matter what kind of job was being advertised. But older women had the fewest call backs. The study looked at a dozen cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Here are some of the study findings:

  • “First, for the one occupation where we study both men and women – sales – we find considerably stronger evidence of discrimination against older women than older men; indeed if one emphasizes the evidence from the unobservables correction, there is evidence of age discrimination only for women. “
  • “ … more generally across the many analyses we present, the evidence of age discrimination against older women is strong and robust, while the evidence for older men is less clear.”
  • “We only consistently find evidence of age discrimination for one of three occupations in which we study men (security), and in this case the evidence is not statistically strong.”

The higher rate of age discrimination for women may be the combination of age and sex discrimination, plus the impact of physical appearance.

Continue reading “Study Finds Age Discrimination is Particularly Bad for Women”

Will Apathy Kill POWADA Again This Year?

U.S. SenateHere we go again. U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) have introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) for consideration in the Senate to reverse a 2009 Supreme Court decision that made it much harder for workers to prove they are victims of age discrimination.

The original POWADA was introduced in 2009 but – for reasons that defy explanation – Congress has failed to act on the measure. There does not appear to be any objection the POWADA, which would merely restore the status quo that existed for two decades prior to the 2009 ruling. The POWADA is simply ignored year after year, even as older workers suffer epidemic levels of age discrimination in employment.

Older workers have been second-class citizens in the U.S. legal system since 2009.

The unfair and unjust treatment of age discrimination victims prompted my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, which advocates for the immediate adoption of the POWADA. In the long run, I propose making age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin.

What about this year? Does the POWADA stand any chance of being passed by both houses of Congress and  signed into law by the President Obama? Continue reading “Will Apathy Kill POWADA Again This Year?”