U.N.: World Leader in Ageism

Untied NationsHypocrisy in the non-profit sector is particularly nauseating (for obvious reasons) but the United Nations may take the cake with its rule on mandatory retirement.

The U.N. General Assembly in 2015  adopted a resolution that will take effect on January 1, 2018 to raise its mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65.

In October 2016, the organization hired as its new leader António Guterres, who is 67.

Firstly, how can it be acceptable for an organization to force out perfectly competent workers on their 65th birthday but exempt the leadership of the organization? According to the U.N. resolution, a worker can continue to work after age 65 only in “exceptional circumstances” and “when it is in the interest of the Organization.”

Secondly, why age 65? That makes as much sense as age 60. It’s  a  arbitrary age. There is no basis to conclude that workers – especially office workers  – suddenly decline at a particular age.  Guterres is an example of the fact that aging is individualistic and depends on many factors that have nothing to do with a calendar.

Zero Discrimination Day – Except for Age Discrimination?

On March 1, the U.N. celebrated “Zero Discrimination Day,” which  it says celebrates everyone’s right to live a full life with dignity regardless of age, gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, skin color, height, weight, profession, education, and beliefs.

Maybe someone should tell the U.N. that mandatory retirement is a form of age discrimination. It was banned in the U.S. in 1967 under the U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act, except with respect to a few limited categories (ex. public safety workers, high ranking executives, elected officials, etc.). Presumably the United Nations is exempted from the ADEA through a treaty.

Few would argue that age discrimination is an irrational and harmful form of discrimination that effectively denies older workers the right to work.  Possibly high paid staffers at the U.N. don’t need to earn money after age 65 but workers around the world do. 

Continue reading “U.N.: World Leader in Ageism”

Why are so many retired women poor?

poor-old-ladyThe National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) has issued a new report stating that women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older.

The report,  Shortchanged in Retirement, The Continuing Challenges to Women’s Financial Future,  proposes, among other things, strengthening Social Security benefits for women to reduce their vulnerability to financial hardship as they age.

Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director and report co-author, says women are  “financially disadvantaged because we still earn less than men and we typically take time out of our careers for caregiving – both of which reduce our ability to prepare for retirement.” The NIRS report also notes that women more often work for employers that do not offer a retirement plan and  women face more years in retirement because they live longer than men.

All of this is true but it is disappointing that the NIRS  does not even acknowledge a major problem facing older women – age discrimination in employment.

The NIRS report reflects the sad fact that age discrimination in employment is invisible, even to those who should know better.

Women are pushed out the workplace earlier than men and then find it far more difficult to get a new job. Women are forced to spend down their savings and take poorly paid part-time or temp work, which limits their ability to save. The median income of women age 65 and older is consistently 25 percent lower than the median income of men of the same age. Continue reading “Why are so many retired women poor?”

Tunnel Vision and State Court Judges

  • Judge O’Connell’s lawsuit was dismissed on March 10, 2016 by the Michigan Court of Appeals, which claimed it lacked jurisdiction. The Michigan Supreme Court on March 31, 2016 also declined to consider O’Connell’s appeal.

O'ConnellAn attorney for a Michigan judge is quoted as stating the “pernicious practice of age discrimination has, except for judges, been extirpated* from the American work environment.”

Seriously?

Tn fact, age discrimination is deeply embedded in state and federal law and affects millions of older workers who, unlike judges, are effectively driven out of the workplace into low-wage work or an “early retirement” marked by decades of poverty or near poverty.  At least judges have decent public pensions.

[Obviously, Detroit Attorney Alan Falk and his client, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Peter D. O’Connell,  have not read my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.]

Federal court judges have lifetime tenure but state court judges in many states are  not so lucky. O’Connell turns 68 this year and will be booted from the full-time bench as a result of a provision in the Michigan constitution that states: “No person shall be elected or appointed to a judicial office after reaching the age of 70 years.”

State election officials have told  O’Connell, who was elected in 1994, that he can secure a place on the ballot this year if he gathers signatures, but he won’t be listed as an incumbent. O’Connell filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Court of Claims in which he seeks to force the state to put his name on the ballot as an incumbent.

O’Connell states that 32 Michigan judges were forced to leave the bench in 2014 because of their age.  Typically, state court judges can continue to work but at a far lower rate of pay and without the perks of a full-time office holder.

Falk and O’Connell maintain there are no age limits for any other elected position in Michigan. That may true with respect to “elected” positions but many other jobs in Michigan are subject to mandatory retirement. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, for example, public sector workers, including police and firefighters, can be forced to retire at the age of 55.   Continue reading “Tunnel Vision and State Court Judges”

Close the Social Security Gender Gap

father-knows-best_359There is outcry about the 22 percent wage gap between male and female workers but what about the even bigger 29 percent Social Security gap?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that the average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older in 2013 was $12,857, compared to $16,590 for men.  That gap can mean the difference between living frugally and living in poverty.  And many more older women do live in poverty than men. According to a 2013 study by the National Women’s Law Center, nearly 2.9 million women aged 65 and older lived in poverty, compared to 1.3 million men.

So why do women receive a lesser Social Security benefit than men?

The short answer is that Social Security rewards men for sex discrimination in the workplace, and perpetuates the harm suffered by women who are subject to sex discrimination in the workplace.

Just as it is important to eliminate the gender wage gap, it is important to eliminate the gender Social Security gap.

Continue reading “Close the Social Security Gender Gap”

Wrong Diagnosis by American Medical Assn?

The American Medical Association has plunged headlong into the controversy about age discrimination in the medical profession by adopting a plan to develop criteria to review “”Senior/Late Career”  doctors’ physical and mental health and patient care.

At its annual meeting last month, the AMA unanimously adopted a plan to spearhead an effort to evaluate elder healthcare providers’ on-the-job effectiveness. The plan was proposed by the AMA’s Council on Medical Education.

The action comes on the heels of a dispute at Stanford University, where the Faculty Senate in May demanded repeal of a 2013 requirement that medical faculty aged 75 and older undergo enhanced health screening and peer assessment to retain their jobs.

Like Stanford University, the AMA fails to provide any research or evidence whatsoever explaining why it is necessary to screen “senior” physicians.

The AMA policy states that it will “identify organizations that should participate in the development of guidelines and methods of screening and assessment to assure that senior/late career physicians remain able to provide safe and effective care for patients.” These organizations must then  “work together to develop preliminary guidelines for assessment of the senior/late career physician and develop a research agenda that could guide those interested in this field and serve as the basis for guidelines more grounded in research findings.”

Apparently, the AMA has decided there is a need for a plan and will now develop the research necessary to support that conclusion.

In the absence of any evidence that a plan is even necessary, one cannot help but speculate that ageist stereotypes against older workers have played a role in the AMA’s decision-making. These stereotypes include unsupported concerns that older workers are less competent, can’t learn new things, are rigid and quarrelsome, and refuse to accept they should step down and make room for younger doctors.. Continue reading “Wrong Diagnosis by American Medical Assn?”

At the Intersection of Age and Sex Discrimination: Social Security

.According to the Social Security Administration, a much higher percentage of women who are aged 65 and older live in poverty or near poverty than do males who are aged 65 and older. The median income of individual males aged 65 and older was $29,327 in 2013 compared to $16,301 for individual females. Median means half earned more and half earned less

Bernie

When candidates for the U.S. Presidency talk about cutting Social Security benefits, a lot of women worry. That’s because women suffer from the cumulative negative impact of sex and age discrimination.

.According to the Social Security Administration, a much higher percentage of women who are aged 65 and older live in poverty or near poverty than do men who are aged 65 and older. The median income of individual males aged 65 and older was $29,327 in 2013 compared to $16,301 for individual females. Median means that half had a higher income and half had a lower income.

Women suffer discrimination all of their working lives, starting with a pay disparity in their first jobs that persists throughout their careers. Women suffer from pregnancy discrimination and the failure of the American workplace to accommodate the disproportionate burdens place upon women with children. Finally, women suffer age discrimination at least a decade before many men experience the problem.

The National Women’s Law Center reports that without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would be poor.

In a 2013 study, the National Women’s Law Center found that nearly 2.9 million women aged 65 and older live in poverty compared to 1.3 million men. The poverty rate for older women was 12 percent, compared to 7 percent for older men. That’s almost twice as many women living in poverty than men! Poverty rates were particularly high for older women who are black (20 percent), Hispanic (23 percent) and Native American (21 percent).

So it has not been easy to read  a bevy of white male GOP presidential candidates  call for cutting Social Security as have Sen. Lindsey Graham and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  They don’t even bother to address the degree to which American women in particular are forced to rely upon these exceedingly modest benefits just to survive. Continue reading “At the Intersection of Age and Sex Discrimination: Social Security”

Stanford U. Defends Age Discrimination

The Stanford University Faculty Senate is demanding repeal of a discriminatory requirement that medical faculty aged 75 and older undergo enhanced health screening and peer assessment to retain their jobs.

norman-rockwell-doctor-doll-postersThe Stanford University Faculty Senate is demanding repeal of a discriminatory requirement that medical faculty aged 75 and older undergo enhanced health screening and peer assessment to retain their jobs.

 In 2013, the university adopted a controversial Late Career Practitioner Policy, which requires doctors at Stanford Health Care to pass an enhanced health screening and peer assessment of their clinical skills every two years.  Enhanced screening is not required for younger medical professionals who have known mental or physical health problems, while doctors aged 75 and older who are healthy and competent must overcome a presumption that they are unfit to do their jobs.

The Stanford Faculty Senate last week cast a 20-9 secret ballot vote asking university leaders to reject the 2013 policy and to adopt a new single, uniform method for assessing the competence of all faculty members practicing medicine at its hospitals and clinics.  The faculty resolution states:

“Be it resolved that the Faculty Senate of the Academic Council recommends to the University leadership that it advise Stanford Hospitals and Clinics, Stanford Health Care, Stanford Medicine, that age discrimination in competency testing end, and that patients be safeguarded by a process that is the same for all faculty age-groups.” Continue reading “Stanford U. Defends Age Discrimination”