Seriously? EEOC To Offer Training on a Respectful and Diverse Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has launched two new training programs for employers: Leading for Respect (for supervisors) and Respect in the Workplace (for all employees).

This is ironic because  the EEOC so clearly has no respect for older workers who are victims of age discrimination.

For years, the EEOC has failed to vigorously implement the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Almost a quarter of all complaints received by the EEOC in 2016 involved age discrimination; yet the agency filed only two lawsuits that year with “age discrimination claims.”

Moreover, it was recently learned the EEOC ignored legal precedent and dismissed two age discrimination lawsuits filed by highly qualified older job applicants who were passed over for far less qualified  workers under the age of 40 (some were recent graduates).  In one case, a hiring officer for the Social Security Administration said he discounted qualifications altogether and hired four applicants under the age of 40 based on his perception of cultural fit. Even the business community knows that hiring based on cultural fit is an invitation to bias. Since EEOC actions are secret unless the EEOC files a lawsuit, one can only guess how many older workers have been denied their right to work by the very agency that is responsible for implementing the ADEA.

How Can We Expect the EEOC to Train Employers to Respect and Value Older Workers When the EEOC doesn’t?

The other irony is that older women are the most severely affected by age discrimination in employment, which dumps many of them into an impoverished old age.

The EEOC’s press release indicates the “Respectful Workplaces Training Program” is available to both private and public employers. The program is a follow-up to an EEOC study of workplace harassment.

“The training program focuses on respect, acceptable workplace conduct, and the types of behaviors that contribute to a respectful and inclusive, and therefore ultimately more profitable, workplace,” states the press release.

Here’s a tip for the EEOC. It is not acceptable for the EEOC to conduct itself in a manner that is not respectful and inclusive of older workers, especially those who are victims of age discrimination and come to you for justice.

 

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Classism and Forced Retirement

PhilosopherAn ugly “class”  issue lurks beneath the argument that older workers should be forced out of the workplace so that younger workers can have their jobs.

The argument is often made by people who enjoy professional status, earn big bucks and look forward to comfortable pensions.  Not by ordinary working stiffs.

This is the case in a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal by two law school professors from the University of Chicago, Saul Levmore, who is around 63 years of age, and Martha Nussbaum, who is 70.

They claim, without citing any supporting data, that the productivity of workers declines after age 50. Performance may decline in some areas for some workers (i.e., quarterbacks and major league pitchers) but aging is individualistic and not uniform. Should we also assume that all women want to be mommies and all men can bench press 500 pounds?

They argue the law should allow employers and employees “to agree” on a retirement age at the start of a new job, so the workers can be terminated “after a certain age” without cause. Don’t they know that few, if any, workers would voluntarily agree to such an onerous contract term. That these contracts would be based on age discrimination and signed under duress.

Why would the Wall Street Journal shine its spotlight on an essay that fails to show any understanding for the plight of older workers or the reality of age discrimination in the workplace? Possibly because six corporations own 90 percent of the media today and these corporations engage in age discrimination.

Ironically, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 initially permitted colleges and universities to involuntarily retire tenured professors at age 65. How would Levmore and Nussbaum feel about being forced to hand their posh jobs over to deserving young PhDs? Continue reading “Classism and Forced Retirement”

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?”