EEOC Tackles Ageism in Academia
May 3, 2012 4 Comments
NOTE: Marymount Manhattan College subsequently entered a consent decree with the EEOC settling the law suit discussed below. Marymount agreed to pay $125,000 to Patricia Catterson and to comply with the requirements of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The decree also requires monitoring and training on anti-discrimination law. The decree will last for four years.
It appears that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finally may be cracking down on what some say is blatant, rampant and unchecked age discrimination in academia.
The EEOC has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against an elite private liberal arts college, Marymount Manhattan College of New York City, because it allegedly refused to hire a choreography instructor for a tenure track assistant professorship because of her age.
Marymount initially selected a 64-year-old choreography instructor and two other applicants as finalists for an assistant professorship in dance composition. After determining that the 64-year-old was the leading candidate, the EEOC said, Marymount’s search committee expanded its search to include a less qualified, 37-year-old applicant as a fourth finalist because it considered her to be “at the right moment of her life for commitment to a full-time position.” Marymount hired the 37-year-old applicant.
Last year, Nicholas Spaeth, 62, the former state attorney general for North Dakota, filed several groundbreaking lawsuits against law schools, including the Michigan State University College of Law in East Lansing, Michigan, for allegedly violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Spaeth, a magna cum laude graduate of Stanford Law School, says he couldn’t even get an interview for several advertised teaching position at the law school.
Spaeth has served as general counsel at three publicly held companies with billions in assets, argued a groundbreaking tax case before the U.S. Supreme Court, and was a partner at three law firms. He also taught for four years at the University of Missouri School of Law, three years as an adjunct and one year as a visiting professor.
He applied to Michigan law school, which ended up hiring three attorneys for the 2011-2012 school year who graduated in 2006, 2005 and 2001, respectively. One of the new hires had no experience as a legal practitioner. The applicant who was hired by Michigan to teach in Spaeth’s area of specialty, corporate taxation, had three years of practical experience as an associate in a law firm. Spaeth, who served two four-year terms as North Dakota’s Attorney General, is a former general counsel of H & R Block.
Spaeth earlier filed complaints with the EEOC against more than 100 law schools that also did not offer him an interview. The EEOC dismissed most, if not all, if Spaeth’s complaints.
One of Spaeth’s age discrimination lawsuits in March passed a critical stage in the legal process. A federal judge denied a motion by Georgetown University’s law school to dismiss Spaeth’s claims that the law school violated federal and District of Columbia laws when it failed to offer tenure-track teaching job. “It… remains plausible that Georgetown could be liable for age discrimination,” wrote U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in her opinion in Spaeth v. Georgetown University, United States District Court, District of Columbia, No. 11-1376..
The EEOC’s Marymount suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Civil Action No. 12-cv-2388 (JPO) after the EEOC unsuccessfully sought to settle the matter.
“Our suit charges that age was the deciding factor in this case,” said EEOC trial attorney Justin Mulaire. “Under the law, age has no place in hiring decisions — and tenure-track positions in academia are no exception.”
The Age discrimination against employees and job applicants who are age 40 or older is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
Elizabeth Grossman, the regional attorney of the EEOC’s New York District Office, said, “Older workers have the right to be evaluated based on their abilities and not based on their age. The EEOC is committed to combating bias against older workers in all phases of employment and in all types of employment settings.”