Economists Say Age Discrimination in Hiring Forces Cuts in Social Security

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco issued an “Economic Letter” this week noting that “current policies” in place to combat age discrimination in hiring may not work, which is increasing the burden on U.S. Social Security and forcing policy-makers to find ways to limit benefits.

The authors, economists David Neumark and Ian Burn, from the University of California and Patrick Button of Tulane University, also say  research shows that age discrimination most adversely affects women who “end up quite poor” at the end of their lives.

According to the authors,  older workers are being encouraged to work longer but can’t find jobs due to age discrimination in hiring.

“Population aging and the consequent increased financial burden on the U.S. Social Security system is driving new proposals for program reform. One major reform goal is to create stronger incentives for older individuals to stay in the workforce longer.  However, hiring discrimination against older workers creates demand-side barriers that limit the effectiveness of these supply side reforms,”  state the authors.

The authors say age discrimination in hiring is creating pressure on policy makers to reduce the age for Social Security benefits and to cut benefits.

The paper touches upon an issue that I raised in my 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.   I note that older workers have suffered from legal inequality for 50 years. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, unlike Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, does not allow victims of age discrimination to collect punitive or compensatory damages. This limits potential damages and makes it  hard to find an attorney. The authors note that current enforcement of our nation’s discrimination laws lies in large part upon private litigation, which “may be ineffective at reducing or eliminating age discrimination in hiring. In particular, the potential rewards to plaintiffs’ attorneys may be too low to encourage sufficient enforcement, because it is difficult to file a class action lawsuit, and economic damages from discrimination in hiring may be small.” they write.

However, the authors do not address other aspects of the ADEA that contribute to legal inequality for older workers and another major driver of age discrimination today – the  EEOC’s virtual  lack of enforcement of the ADEA.

Continued refusal by business to hire older workers “could lead to even harsher policy reforms for seniors… “

The authors write that they do not know exactly why women are most adversely affected by age discrimination ” but it could be because applicant appearance matters in our sample of low-skilled jobs, and the effects of aging on physical appearance are evaluated more harshly for women than for men “

Missouri bill would make it harder to sue for discrimination

If you don’t like getting sued for discrimination, just make it harder to sue.

That seems to be the theory underlying a bill pending in Missouri House of Representatives that was recently endorsed by the University of Missouri system.

The proposed bill would make it harder to sue by raising the level of proof in lawsuits alleging discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. It also would bar the award of punitive damages against “public entities.”

The University of Missouri Backs the Controversial Measure

The Missouri legislature’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, which held a hearing on the bill last week, appears to be less than interested in opposing views. Committee Chairperson Bill Lant cut off the microphone of Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel, who said the measure would expand discrimination and represents a form of “Jim Crow.”   Lant, a Republican, also refused to allow a committee member to ask questions of Chapel.

Minutes before Chapel was silenced,  the Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Marty Oetting, lobbyist for the University of Missouri, told the committee that UM supports the bill, especially the part barring anyone winning a lawsuit from receiving punitive damages from public entities. The university system is currently facing two discrimination lawsuits,

The university claims workers receive sufficient protection under federal law and do not need the enhanced protections of the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The driving force behind the bill is Missouri State Sen. Gary Romaine, the owner of a “rent-to-own” furniture business that is currently a defendant in a race discrimination lawsuit.  Romaine couched the bill as a way of “reforming Missouri’s legal climate and improving our ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.”

The proposed bill would essentially adopt the current standard of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 for all victims of race and sex discrimination. Workers would have to show that discrimination occurred “because of” discrimination rather than meeting the lesser standard of showing that discrimination was a motivating factor.

Trump’s Short-Sighted Pick for Labor

Note: Andrew Puzder withdrew his nomination for Labor Secretary on 2/15/17. He also admitted to hiring an undocumented  housekeeper and his ex-wife appeared on Oprah in 1990 in disguise and  accused him of domestic violence. She later recanted. PGB

For all of his supposed  business acumen, President Donald Trump is doing some really dumb things.

For one thing,Trump  has proposed Andrew (Andy) Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, as the next Secretary of Labor.

CKE operates the “fast food” restaurants Carl’s Jr. and Hardees and  has been sued multiples times for discrimination, failing to pay overtime and firing workers who protest poverty wages.

And  it is not insignificant that CKE sells burgers with advertising that many of Trump’s middle class voters would rightly consider to be soft-core porn. One controversial ad features Paris Hilton wearing a skin-tight bikini while soaping up a Bentley and crawling all over it before taking a long, lingering bite of a juicy burger. This ad drew the ire of the Parents Television Council and was  banned in New Zealand. According to CNN Money, Puzder was less than sympathetic to the concerns of parents, telling them to “get a life …  there is no nipple in this. There is no nudity, there is no sex acts — it’s a beautiful model in a swimsuit washing a car.” One suspects that Puzder does not have his finger on the pulse of Trump’s voter base.

Whether or not Puzder is qualified to enforce the nation’s labor laws, he obviously lacks good judgment and political acumen. The job of labor secretary is sensitive and politically charged. Puzder promises to be the equivalent of a bull in the china shop. Isn’t this like asking for trouble?

It is also baffling that Trump reportedly is seeking to rein in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal consumer watchdog group that was created in the wake of the worst recession in 100 years. The agency serves as a check on the financial services industry and has returned about $11.8 billion to some 29 million consumers since 2011. What’s the upside to de-fanging an organization that could  help prevent future financial upheaval that could make Trump look bad?

Trump is not a politician. He is an outsider who wants change. But Trump’s middle class voters want positive change that benefits them, not the already too comfortable one percent. Trump needs better advice than he is getting from son-in-law and political novice Jared Kushner, erratic advisor Kellyanne Conway and laid-back Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.  Which is another thing.

Twitter To Tackle Abusive Tweets

Twitter is wading into waters that many employers continue to avoid –  the problem of abuse and harassment on its platform.

Twitter’s vice-president of engineering, Ed Ho, stated in a  blog post  Tuesday that Twitter’s primary focus in the weeks ahead will be “making Twitter a safer place.”

Specifically,  Twitter plans to:

  • Identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts.
  • Establish a “safe search” protocol that removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts.
  • Collapse potentially abusive or low-quality tweets so the most relevant conversations are brought forward. Users will still have the option to  see the “less relevant” Tweets.

If Twitter can address the problem of abusive conduct on its massive international social media platform, shouldn’t employers address the problem in their workplaces?

Twitter already has expanded its Mute tool, which lets people  block  keywords, phrases and  conversations they do not want to see.  Last year, Twitter updated its block button so users could avoid tweets from blocked users altogether.

“We stand for freedom of expression and people being able to see all sides of any topic. That’s put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices.We won’t tolerate it, and we’re launching new efforts to stop it,” writes Ho.