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.”
I went to a restaurant recently where a server, a man who appeared to be in his late 60s, had obvious hearing problems despite wearing a hearing aid. We had to repeat our food order and he forgot my wine (or perhaps never heard me order it). It made me think about the pressure that older workers are under to remain in the workplace as a result of the Social Security Administration’s discriminatory benefits formula.
The formula is rigged to benefit those who stay in the workplace the longest. If workers retire at age 62 – the earliest possible age – they suffer a 33 percent loss in their monthly benefit for the rest of their lives compared to workers who wait until age 66. If workers can hold out and retire at age 70 – the oldest retirement age in the formula – they will receive a benefit that is 75 percent higher than if they had retired at age 62.
The problem is that many, if not most, older workers have little real choice about whether they will remain in the workforce.
Voya Financial, Inc. recently released findings from a poll of 1,002 recent retirees that found 60 percent had to stop working unexpectedly. Thirty-three percent said they left their jobs involuntarily. Of this group, 16 percent had to retire because of health challenges, 11 percent lost their jobs, three percent had to stop working because they had to care for a spouse or dependent, and an additional three percent retired involuntarily because of their age.
Once an older worker is jobless, the chance that he or she will find new employment is almost nil due to epidemic, blatant and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring. These jobless older workers are forced to spend down their savings and work in low-paid part-time and temp jobs until they age into a financially ill-advised early “retirement.” The AARP reported in February that older job seekers represented 24 percent of the unemployed in March 2013 but 31 percent of the long-term unemployed. The AARP cited one study showing that only about one in nine long-term unemployed workers had steady full-time jobs 12 months later. Older non-Hispanic blacks had the highest rate of long-term unemployment (57 percent), followed by Hispanics (53 percent) and whites (47 percent). How ironic that these Americans are subjected to discrimination a second time – by the Social Security Administration!
The Social Security benefits formula penalizes the poor.