OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) issued its first “policy brief” Friday afternoon, addressing the issue of  “healthy aging.”

Get ready for news of a truly momentous policy announcement –  The Conference is urging a “shift in the way we think and talk about aging. Rather than focusing on the limitations of aging, older adults across the nation want to focus instead on the opportunities of aging.”  Oh, and older adults should get physical activity, good nutrition and good medical care.

No, this is not an April fools joke.  With all of the problems facing older Americans, the Obama administration essentially wants us all to think happy thoughts.

Meanwhile, the WHCOA  has completely ignored calls to address the problem of age discrimination in employment, which, among other things, condemns older workers to a retirement of poverty or near poverty.

According to a 2013 study by Economic Policy Institute,  nearly half (48.0 percent) of the elderly population is “economically vulnerable,” defined as having an income that is less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. This equates to roughly 19.9 million economically vulnerable seniors. Women and minorities have far higher rates of economic vulnerability. Continue reading “OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!”

THE AARP: SURVEYS BUT NO SOLUTIONS

The AARP has been conducting surveys for years showing the existence of epidemic age discrimination in the American workplace and it released yet another one on Monday.

But the AARP seems unwilling to take a position on why the problem of unemployment and under-employment exists for older workers and what to do about it. Although the AARP markets itself as the nation’s leading advocate for Americans age 50 and older, it’s advocacy on this issue has been virtually non-existent. One can’t help but wonder if the AARP’s reticence reflects greater concern for its $3 billion a year profit-making enterprise selling health and travel insurance to retirees than the plight of older workers.

In my recent book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I indisputably show that older workers have virtually no protection against age discrimination in the workplace. This is a problem that has been getting worse for fifty years. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  I propose repealing the ADEA and making age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to insure that older workers receive the same level of protection as workers who are subject to illegal discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. All employment discrimination is based on irrational animus and unfounded stereotypes. There is absolutely no justification for treating older workers differently and, in fact, it is completely contrary to the bedrock principle of U.S. Constitutional that insures all Americans receive equal justice under the law.

Why isn’t the AARP lobbying Congress to provide equal justice for older workers? The AARP surveys generate a lot of wonderful free publicity for the AARP, which makes it appear that the AARP is actually doing something. But the reality is that no one is doing anything about the problem of age discrimination in the workplace, which reached crisis proportions during the Great Recession and is still wreaking havoc on older workers lives. Even the White House Conference on Aging refuses to acknowledge the issue, preferring instead to partner with t he AARP to address “healthy aging.” Continue reading “THE AARP: SURVEYS BUT NO SOLUTIONS”

TEXAS ROADHOUSE GOES TO CONGRESS

It all comes back to Hooters.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that Hooters’ policy of not hiring males to be servers constituted sex discrimination. Hooters launched a “public awareness campaign” asking customers to complain to the U.S. Congress. The EEOC backed down, citing budgetary limitations.  In other words, Hooters’ thwarted the EEOC’s efforts to battle irrational and illegal discrimination in the workplace without even having to go to court.

Now the Kentucky-based restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse is following Hooters’ example. It is facing a 2011 lawsuit filed by the EEOC that alleges the company does not hire workers over the age of 40 for “front of the house” positions. Texas Roadhouse apparently is concerned that it might actually lose in court (though, God knows why) so it has taken its battle to the U.S. Congress, where it has succeeded in marshaling the support of prominent Republicans.

According to EEOC documents, Texas Roadhouse managers were not subtle when they turned away older applicants. They made comments like:

  •  “We think you are a little too old to work here … We like younger people.”
  • “We’re hiring for greeters, but we need the young, hot ones who are chipper and stuff.”
  • “You seem older to be applying for this job.”

And the EEOC is not exactly aggressive when it comes to age discrimination. It received 20,588 complaints of age discrimination in 2014, which was about 23 percent of all claims it received.  It filed 12 lawsuits in 2014 with age discrimination claims, which was about 7 percent of all of the lawsuits it filed.  Of course, in most cases, age discrimination was just one of several claims.

Still, outraged Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee say they are looking into why the EEOC investigates companies in the absence of a specific complaint – companies like Texas Road House! Continue reading “TEXAS ROADHOUSE GOES TO CONGRESS”

WAS AGE BIAS BEHIND TRADER JOE’S “REORGANIZATION”?

A class-action lawsuit alleges that Trader Joe’s implemented a company-wide “reorganization” plan last year to drive out older workers.

According to the complaint,  a company-wide reorganization by Trader Joe’s, the grocery store chain for affluent yuppies, resulted in the systematic demotion of employees over the age of 45 in violation of the U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The suit was brought by Keith Garlough, 49, an eight-year veteran employee of a California Trade Joe’s store, who was demoted from the position of “merchant,” which is one rung below assistant store manager,  to an entry-level crew position.  He states he suffered an $8.50 per hour loss in pay, a reduction in hours and was no longer eligible for bonuses and overtime pay. He also incurred greater health insurance costs and received fewer health benefits, less vacation and leave pay, and diminished retirement contributions.

I note in my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, that it is a common practice  for employers to use the device of a “restructuring” or “business reorganization” to eliminate or demote older workers. There hasn’t been much litigation over the practice because age discrimination is treated like a second-class offense in U.S. federal courts.  If these cases aren’t immediately dismissed, federal judges permit employers to avoid accountability by dragging out these cases for years. In one major case at least two older workers died  while their age discrimination case was permitted to languish for ten years until it was dismissed!

In addition to the ADEA, the complaint alleges Trader Joe’s  company-wide policy violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and California’s competition law.

The case is Garlough v. Trader Jos’s Co., # 3:15-cv-01278 and was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Trader Joe’s has more than 200 stores in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45

While the U.S. continues to ignore the on-going epidemic of age discrimination here, a new report in the United Kingdom posits that ageism and sexism combine to effectively end women’s careers at the age of 45.

Men continue to progress until around age 55, when they are written off by employers  as being “past it.”

These are some of the results of a major report by economist Ros Altmann, who was appointed last year by the United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions Minister to serve as the U.K.’s  Business Champion for Older Workers.

Altmann told the British Daily Mail and Independent newspapers that senior human resource professionals report that women’s career progression in most companies stops around the age of 45.  She said that nearly half the growth in female employment since the recession has been in low-paid, part-time work, mainly  clerical, caring and cleaning work.  Here are some other findings:

  • Older workers with young bosses tend to face the worst age discrimination.
  • Employers wrongly assume that older workers are less familiar with computer technology and are unable to learn.
  • Women face an extra layer of discrimination because employers want young, female staff who “look a certain way.”

Altmann recommends the government threaten  job recruitment firms with penalties unless they do more to prevent age discrimination. She said all job advertisements should clearly state the application is open to everyone regardless of age. She also recommends a national “confidence” campaign for discouraged older workers and proposed that companies offer “mature” apprentice programs.

The U.S. Slumbers on … 

The U.K. initiative stands in sharp contrast to the almost complete lack of action in the United States to combat blatant and epidemic age discrimination in the workplace. Continue reading “REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45”

MADONNA AND AGE DISCRIMINATION

Very few female celebrities have publicly raised the issue of age discrimination.  Most hide from it as long as possible because they know it may be the death knell of their career. But Madonna has never been like other celebrities.

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Madonna, 56, observes that no one would “dare say a degrading remark about being black or dare say a degrading remark on Instagram about someone being gay, but my age – anybody and everybody would say something degrading to me. And I always think to myself, why is that accepted? What’s the difference between that and racism, or any discrimination?”

The difference, Madonna, is that age discrimination has essentially been legalized in the United States.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. And Congress is completely apathetic about the issue. Continue reading “MADONNA AND AGE DISCRIMINATION”

JIM CROW AND AGE DISCRIMINATION

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  Edmund Burke.

This quote was sent to me by a reader and encapsulates the real problem with the epidemic of age discrimination in America today.  Our elected representatives and federal judges, who ultimately are responsible for ensuring equal justice for all Americans, choose to look the other way when employers engage in age discrimination.  The result is that a class of Americans is subjected to arbitrary and systemic discrimination in the workplace that robs them of, among other things, their ability to earn a living and retire with dignity.

This is reminiscent of the era of Jim Crow but it involves age, not race. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted after the Civil War that had the effect of mandating racial segregation in all public facilities in the South.  In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workforce, I show that older workers are literally second-class citizens under the law.

The major law protecting older workers, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  As a result, older workers are subjected to wholesale and targeted terminations, long-term unemployment due to epidemic and overt age discrimination in hiring and, finally, they are forced into low-wage or temp work until they can age into an early retirement that will reduce their Social Security benefit by at least 25%  for the rest of their lives.

Age discrimination has nothing to do with ability or merit. It’s about perception. It’s attributable to ignorance and prejudice – both conscious and unconscious – perpetuated by false and harmful stereotypes, fear of aging, and animus between that generations which is fueled by America’s staggering wealth inequality.   And, of course, it exists because of  the failure of  the supposedly good people to act.

I have no intention of diminishing the horror that is evident in the history of race discrimination in America.  Age discrimination is  different. Older people aren’t lynched. They’re put in drawers and forgotten. And age discrimination in the workplace is just the beginning. The problem also is evident in for-profit nursing homes, where old people are labelled, sedated, and neglected until they fade away. By the way, there is a strong correlation between poverty in old age and race.

Burke (1729-1797) was an Irish statesman; author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher. He isn’t the only one to observe that evil thrives when good people do nothing. More recently, Martin Luther King said: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

* This article was originally published at abusergoestowork.com on February 13, 2015.