The EEOC is in the painful position of having to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which the EEOC has failed to aggressively enforce and arguably violates itself. The U.S. Congress passed the ADEA on December 15, 1967.
This important anniversary of the ADEA also shines a spotlight on how the EEOC has failed millions of older Americans who became victims of age discrimination in employment during and since the Great Recession.
Yet, the EEOC must go through the motions. That is the least that is expected of the agency that is responsible for enforcing the ADEA.
So the EEOC has adopted a handsome marketing logo, Ability Matters – Not Age, and the agency is purporting on Twitter to “count down” to the big day on Friday .
The modern history of the ADEA shows that a law does not yield justice if it is not enforced.
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.
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.”
Can We Expect the EEOC to Train Employers to Respect and Value Older Workers When the EEOC Itself Does Not?
U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. of the Southern District of New York threw out the paralegal”s age discrimination claims because, he said, they were speculative and unsupported by plausible facts.
But what is a plausible fact?
Judge Carter is around the same age as the plaintiff in the case, Terri Jablonski, 49, and that’s where the similarities end. He’s a male graduate of Harvard Law School who was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in 2011. He earns around $200,000 a year and enjoys lifetime tenure.
Jablonski is a female Haverford College graduate who earned a paralegal certificate from New York University. She has 19 years of experience as a paralegal and, according to her attorney, excellent references. But she has hit a roadblock.
Jablonski filed 41 unsuccessful job applications with the legal staffing firm, Special Counsel, Inc., from August 2, 2013 to July 21, 2015. She was never hired or even referred for placement.
The EEOC has declined to comment on its decision to uphold an administrative ruling that dismissed an age discrimination case where a hiring officer said he ignored objective qualifications and hired workers based on cultural fit.
The ruling by Carlton M. Hadden, director of the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, involved an allegation of age discrimination by a 60-year-old woman who was not selected for one of five vacancies for the position of attorney decision-writer at a new Social Security Administration office in Reno, NV in 2011.
The novice hiring officer testified that he completely ignored objective qualifications when he selected five applicants under the age of 40. After three or four applicants declined the job, the hiring officer selected a 42-year-old male applicant. The hiring officer initially said he rejected the 60-year-old female applicant because she lacked enthusiasm during a 20-minute telephone interview. He agreed she was more objectively qualified than most or all of the other applicants but said she did not fit within his perception of SSA “culture.”
Something was missing from a hearing this week on the EEOC’s proposal to reduce employment discrimination by requiring employers to report the number of individuals they employ on the basis of race, ethnicity and sex.
There was no mention of age or age discrimination.
The new reporting requirement is aimed at eliminating persistent pay inequity for women.
Several experts testified that the gender pay gap grows over women’s careers because women take time out of paid work to care for children. They cited gender differences in raises and promotions and noted that hurdles exist in some high paying occupations, such as high tech, where many women leave, citing a hostile workplace environment. They even cited research that shows women of all education levels are less likely to negotiate their first job offer than men.
A study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that over a lifetime of work (47 years), the total estimated loss of earnings of women compared to men is $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate and $2 million for a professional school graduate.
It seems obvious that age discrimination is a factor in the gender wage gap. Research shows that age discrimination forces women out of the workplace years earlier than men and then prevents from finding new work.
A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at more than 40,000 job applications across a variety of industries and found “robust” evidence of age discrimination in hiring female candidates and “considerably less evidence” for age discrimination against male candidates.
Across all job types, sales and administrative, the researchers found “unambiguous” evidence that age discrimination starts earlier and never relents for women.
In sales, the only occupation for which researchers submitted applications from both men and women, the study found “considerably stronger evidence of discrimination against older women than older men.”
Researchers suspect that physical appearance matters more for women than men and that the law does far less to protect women from age discrimination than men.
The 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?”