The EEOC, Age & the Great Recession

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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.

 

New Book: The Legalization of Age Discrimination

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Even Workers Otherwise Considered to be Young are Vulnerable

Why are workers in their 30s, 40s and 50s increasingly experiencing age discrimination?

This one of the issues I explore in my new book: Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace. The short answer is that age discrimination has become normalized due to a confluence of failures by American institutions that have effectively gutted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

Almost 50 years after the ADEA’s passage, age discrimination remains epidemic in the United States, hidden behind terms such as “long-term unemployment” and “early retirement.” And the problem is trickling down to ever younger workers.

Did you know:

• The new titans of commerce in Silicon Valley openly flaunt the ADEA . Workers in their 30s use Botox and hide their families to avoid the appearance of middle age.

• The U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated the ADEA in 2009 just as the Great Recession fueled unprecedented incentive for employers to rid their payrolls of higher paid older workers. The U.S. Congress easily could have “fixed” the problem by passing the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) but has not done so.

• The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 21,296 age discrimination complaints in 2013; the agency filed seven lawsuits that year with age discrimination claims.

• Forty percent of workers in households nearing retirement age have no retirement assets whatsoever, whether in an employer-sponsored 401(k) type plan or an IRA. Reasons for this include age discrimination, long-term unemployment, and the decline of traditional pensions.

Of course, age discrimination is problematic for  younger workers but it is a devastating life-altering catastrophe for older workers . They often are plunged into long-term unemployment or forced to take poorly-paid part-time or temp work until they age into early retirement, which will result in significantly lower Social Security benefits for the rest of their lives.

Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace is now available as an e-book at Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MYREMRY. It is also available in paperback at https://www.createspace.com/4960074.

Please pick up a copy and I would grateful if you would take the time to review it on Amazon!

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EEOC Defers to ‘Lord High Executioner’

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For those of us who care about workplace abuse, these are trying times.

A federal court judge in Hawaii has forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to publically apologize for announcing last June that a settlement was “filed” in a  case involving “vulnerable” Thai farm workers who were exploited by a labor contractor in Hawaii.

The announcement was technically correct but …

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi was miffed that the EEOC failed to state in a press release about a press conference that the settlements were not final until she signed the consent decree. She said she wouldn’t consider approving the $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the EEOC held a press conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval. She said that if the EEOC didn’t comply, she might reject the settlements and reset all claims for trial. Generally, it is pro forma for a judge to sign off on a settlement that is reached by the parties.

Does this remind anyone else of the Gilbert and Sullivan opus:

Behold the Lord High Executioner
A personage of noble rank and title
A dignified and potent officer
Whose functions are particularly vital
Defer, defer
To the Lord High Executioner
Defer, defer
To the noble Lord, to the noble Lord, to the Lord High Executioner!

As required, the EEOC held a press conference and publically apologized on Friday. An EEOC spokesperson explained that the EEOC issued an alert to the media last June that a press conference would be held to announce the settlements. She conceded the alert was “ambiguous” but noted the EEOC did state at the June press conference that the settlement was subject to court approval.

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Judge Says College Athletes Have Rights

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The failure to compensate big school college athletes has always been about worker fairness and, arguably,  race discrimination.

Now a federal judge has cut through the propaganda by ruling that the National Collegiate Athletic Association violated federal anti-trust law by prohibiting schools and conferences from paying players for the rights to their names, images and likenesses.

It is an important –  albeit partial  -victory for big school basketball and football players.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken  permitted institutions to set a $5,000 cap per year on the money paid to big school football and basketball players and ordered the payments to be placed in trust, payable upon the expiration of the athlete’s athletic eligibility or graduation, whichever comes first.

Wilken said the cap is necessary to address NCAA concerns. “The NCAA’s witnesses stated that their concerns about student-athlete compensation would be minimized or negated if compensation was capped at a few thousand dollars per year,” Wilken wrote.

Former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others sued the NCAA for violating  antitrust laws by conspiring with the schools and conferences to block student athletes from getting a share of the revenues generated from the use of their images in broadcasts and video games.

“The Court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools,” Wilken wrote.

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