The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its second lawsuit this month alleging age discrimination, indicating a possible uptick in EEOC efforts in this long-neglected area.
The lawsuit touches upon the widespread problem of discriminatory hiring practices in the legal profession, which may be second only to systematic age discrimination in higher education.
In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I note the EEOC has essentially ignored a record increase in age discrimination complaints filed with the agency during and since the Great Recession. For example, the EEOC received more than 21,000 age discrimination complaints in 2013 but filed only seven lawsuits with age discrimination claims that year. Meanwhile, older workers are mired in the ranks of the chronically unemployed and under-employed until they are forced into a penurious early “retirement.”
The EEOC charges that Strategic Legal Resources, Inc., a staffing firm that does business as Strategic Legal Solutions, rescinded an offer of hire made to attorney Claudia Zacks after she complied with a company request to provide her date of birth. Zacks was 70 years of age at the time.
The Executive Director of the company’s Real Estates Services Division in New York City emailed Zacks in August 2012 and offered her a position to work on a document review project that was to begin the next day in Novi, Michigan. After Zacks accepted, the company asked Zacks to provide additional information, including her date of birth.
The lawsuit alleges that a Recruitment Coordinator for the company called Zacks and insisted that Zacks “could not possibly arrive at the job site in time on the next day.” Zacks finally expressed concern the company was rescinding its job offer because of her age. The Recruitment Coordinator “responded that not only would Zacks not work on this assignment but she would be placed on the ‘do not use’ list and she need not apply for future job opportunities” with the company.
The EEOC charges that Strategic Legal Solutions also denied Zack future employment. In Spring 2013, Zack answered an anonymous Craigslist posting for individuals interested in working on a document review project. Zacks was hired by a different Strategic Legal Solutions office to work on a document review project in Novi, Michigan. After three days on the project, she was summarily terminated.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Strategic Legal Solutions to pay Zachs appropriate back wages, liquidated damages and interest.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, it is illegal “for an employment agency to fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise to discriminate against, any individual because of such individual’s age, or to classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of such individual’s age.” However, a glance at internet employment sites will show that this provision is widely ignored by employers, employment agencies and even the federal government, all of whom seek applicants who are “recent” college graduates.