Is the EEOC Finally Noticing Age Discrimination?

NotHired

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EEOC charges that Strategic Legal Resources, Inc., a  staffing firm that does business as Strategic Legal Solutions, rescinded an offer of hire made to attorney Claudia Zacks after she complied with a company request to provide her date of birth.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.

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. If split evenly, that works out to approximately $8,400 per age discrmination victim. The settlement also requries DSW to report any future employee complaints of age discrimination to the EEOC for the next three years and to 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

BetrayedforWeb

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 and from Ingram Spark.

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’

GilbertandSullivan

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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