“Obama will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act … .” Source: Blueprint for Change (2008)
I was surprised when I recently read that President Barack Obama pledged in 2008 to strengthen the nation’s primary law prohibiting age discrimination, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
Surprised because the ADEA is much weaker today than it was when Obama was running for President in 2008 . The ADEA was decimated by an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2009. Congress could have legislatively “fixed” the Court’s ruling but has failed to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act for five years. But I was most surprised because Obama himself is responsible for weakening the ADEA.
Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that allows federal agencies to discriminate against older workers by hiring “recent graduates” – which is in direct contravention to the ADEA. What message does it send to private employers when the U.S. government deems it appropriate to discriminate on the basis of age? Whether intended or not, Obama’s executive order serves as a green light for employers to engage in harmful, invidious age discrimination.
Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is in the process of planning a White House Conference on Aging this year . Organizers so far have completely ignored the unaddressed epidemic of age discrimination in the workplace that is catapulting older workers into chronic unemployment, low wage jobs and forced early “retirement.”
The Conference recently announced it is partnering with the AARP, the nation’s leading purveyor of supplemental Medicare health insurance, to co-sponsor five regional forums to hear from the public “on issues such as ensuring retirement security, promoting healthy aging, providing long-term services and support, and protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect.” Promote healthy aging? Hmmm … Do you have supplemental Medicare health insurance?
Obama’s unfulfilled campaign promise points to yet another reason that the problem of age discrimination is so prevalent in America today. Older Americans have failed to effectively marshal their resources to insure that their interests are not forgotten by politicians the day after the election. In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama focused on young families and the middle class and failed to even mention issues of particular concern to older Americans,
In my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I explore the reasons that age discrimination is treated like a lesser offense when compared with discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. I show that age discrimination is about perception, not reality. It is about unfounded stereotypes and deep-seated animus. And it has a devastating impact on the health and welfare of older Americans.