The Great Recession hit older workers like a baseball bat.
Older workers were fired and laid off, dumped nto a sea of long-term unemployment, poorly-paid temp or part-time work and into an ill-advised early retirement. Many have not recovered and never will.
In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination, I write that a record number of age discrimination complaints were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the recession. The agency did little to respond to the precipitous upswing in age discrimination complaints and has continued to ignore the problem. I note that in 2013 the EEOC received more than 21,000 complaints of age discrimination but filed only seven lawsuits with age discrimination claims. The book was published in late August.
I was pleased to read an announcement by the EEOC on Monday that the agency had settled an age discirmination lawsuit that it filed on September 15 against DSW Inc., a national shoe retailer which allegedly unfairly fired older workers from 2008 -2009. The agency said DSW had agreed to pay $900,000 in monetary relief to seven former managers and about 100 other former employees. The settlement also requries DSW to report any employee complaints of age discrimination to the EEOC for the next three years and revise its anti-discrimination policy.
DSW, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, allegedly used a common tactic to get rid of older workers during periods of economic turmoil. The EEOC alleged that DSW used a “reduction in force” to fire the older workers, and then retaliated against employees who refused to fire other workers based on their age.
DSW issued a statement in which it denied engaging in age discrimination, insisting it settled the case to avoid the costs of litigation. “Those difficult decisions were driven by economic volatility and were in no way influenced by the age of associates,” the company said.
Charges filed with the EEOC under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act have increased about 36 percent since 1997, from 15,785 to 21,396. The number of complaints reached an all-time high of 24,582 in 2008.
The case, EEOC v. DSW Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-07153, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.