EEOC & AARP: The Willfully Blind leading the Willfully Blind?

You can’t make this stuff up.

The EEOC has announced that age discrimination will be a “special focus” of its major annual “training event” for employers  later this month to mark the 50th anniversary of enactment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The invited guest speaker is Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of the AARP, an organization that has done virtually nothing in 50 years to address the fundamental legal inequality of older workers in the United States and for years has accorded mere lip service  to the epidemic of age discrimination in employment that began during the Great Recession.

Of course, the EEOC under Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration also did virtually nothing about the problem of age discrimination in employment. The EEOC last year filed exactly two lawsuits with age discrimination claims, despite receiving more than 20,000 complaints of age discrimination. The EEOC today arguably does more to protect employers from the consequences of illegal age discrimination than it does to protect older workers from illegal age discrimination. It remains to be seen whether GOP President Donald Trump and EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A.  Lipnic will choose do any better.

The EEOC press release states the CEO of the AARP and the EEOC Acting Chair  will engage in a “candid conversation about age discrimination.”   Maybe they could start by explaining why both organizations have completely ignored the problem for decades.

I respectfully suggest  Jenkins and Lipnic obtain a copy of my groundbreaking book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, which candidly describes the epic failure of the federal government protect older workers from irrational and devastating age discrimination in employment. Up to now, both the EEOC and the AARP have  completely ignored the book, which received an excellent review from The ABA Commission on Law and Aging.

Compared to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADEA was weak when it was adopted in 1967 and it  was subsequently eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Congress has fiddled. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin and color. Unlike Title VII, the ADEA permits “reasonable” age discrimination and provides  minimal damages. One federal circuit court has even ruled that job applicants have no protection from blatant age discrimination in hiring  under the ADEA.

According to the EEOC: “Jenkins has been described as a visionary ‘thought leader’ and a catalyst for breakthrough results at the nation’s largest social welfare organization with nearly 38 million members.”  Well, I suppose you  gotta give her credit for boosting AARP revenues. The AARP is literally making billions from the sale of health insurance to seniors, not to mention internet service, cruises, eyeglasses, dining deals, investment plans, smartphones, etc.

The  EXCEL (Examining Conflicts in Employment Laws) conference will be held in Chicago on June 27-29. The EEOC states it will provide “the employer community”  with tools and strategies to address emerging issues in equal employment opportunity.

The conference, described as the agency’s primary annual event, is geared toward EEO managers, supervisors, practitioners, HR professionals, attorneys, ADR specialists and other interested parties in both the federal and private sectors.

Psst. That advice you got to combat workplace bullying may not work

 Much of the advice given by co-workers , friends and family to targets of workplace bullying  doesn’t help or makes things worse.

This is the upshot of an article in this month’s issue of The Journal of Applied Communication Research by Stacy Tye-Williams, a communications study professor at Iowa State University, and Kathy Krone, a professor of organizational communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The researchers surveyed 48 targets of workplace bullying about the effectiveness of the advice they’ were given to address the bullying.  The top suggestions include: quit the job or get out of the situation, ignore the bullying, fight or stand up to the bully, or report the bullying.

The researchers say there is a  “strong possibility” that direct confrontation of a bully will result in retaliation and the target will be labelled as a problem employee.

Many targets of workplace bullying “are treated as if they are overly emotional or behaving as if they are responsible for single-handedly stopping the bullying.” This attitude “helps sustain an orientation toward organizational life that privileges rationality over emotionality and individual expression over community.”Moreover, urging  individual targets to ‘remain calm’ and ‘stay rational’ overestimates the difference a single individual can make, downplays the significance of strong emotional responses to bullying, and constrains the ability to think and act with greater freedom.”

Another problem, according to the researchers, is that targets of past workplace bullying often tell targets who are currently experiencing the problem to use strategies that proved ineffective for the original target.

The researchers say there is a need for good strategies to successfully combat workplace bullying. “We don’t have a lot of success stories out there,” said Tye-Williams.

The study defines workplace bullying as repeated verbal and nonverbal acts over a period of time intended to inflict humiliation harm.

The United States continues to be among the only developed countries in the world that ignores the plague of workplace bullying, which is a form of workplace violence that causes potentially serious mental and physical harm to workers. An estimated one out of every three or four workers experiences workplace bullying.

This blog has noted that employers are responsible for creating a safe workplace free of harassment and violence.  The author advocates adoption of  a uniform federal workplace bullying law, such as extending the anti-harassment provision of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to all workers and not hose who suffer discrimination.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It’s Critical to Job Satisfaction

A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found the largest percentage of employees (65 percent) felt respectful treatment of all employees at all levels was a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

Only 38 percent of the 600 employees polled in the annual survey said they were “very satisfied” that all employees are treated respectfully.

It is the third consecutive year that the annual SHRM survey has reported that respectful treatment of workers is critical to job satisfaction. The survey found that workers differ in how they perceive the importance of respect, and how much respect they actually feel:

  • Female employees were more likely (72%) to report that respect is a very important contributor to job satisfaction than male employees (57 percent).
  • Millennials were more likely  (45 percent)  to be very satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded when compared with Generation Xers (31 percent). It is interesting that no figure was provided in the SHRM survey for the percentage of Baby Boomers who are satisfied with the amount of respect they are accorded – which may say something about the degree of respect accorded to Boomers.
  • Individual contributors were less likely (31 percent) to be very satisfied with the level of respect shown to all employees compared with executives (52 percent).

Other top contributors to job satisfaction were compensation/pay; trust between employees and senior management; job security; and opportunities to use skills and abilities.

The report notes that an EEOC task force recently reported that encouraging workplace civility and respect could minimize the risk of inappropriate conduct escalating to a level of harassment.

The SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey polled 600 randomly selected U.S. employees in December 2016. The survey examined 44 aspects of job satisfaction and 38 factors directly related to employee engagement.  The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5% percentage points.

SHRM  is the world’s largest HR professional society, representing about 285,000 members in more than 165 countries.

Wells Fargo Whistle-Blowers Wait for Justice

Among the casualties in the Wells Fargo Bank scandal are many employees who were allegedly bullied and fired for refusing to engage in unethical practices.

What has happened to them since the news faded from the headlines points up a new scandal – the lack of any real protection for workers who refuse to engage in illegal acts or who participate in whistle-blowing.

Many of the Wells Fargo ex-workers’ complaints have been pending with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  for years without action.

Earlier this year, Wells Fargo paid $190 million in fines to federal and state authorities after acknowledging that its employees covertly opened as many as two million checking and credit card accounts without the customers’ authorization.  The bank, which fired 5,300 employees for improper sales tactics over a five-year period, finally changed its practice of requiring workers to meet unrealistic sales goals o  Jan. 1.

Many of the fired workers claim they were terminated because they refused to engage in or complained about Wells Fargo’s unethical practices. At least a dozen current and former Wells Fargo workers filed complaints with OSHA; some date back more than a decade.

OSHA finally took some action last month when it ordered Wells Fargo to rehire one whistle-blower, a wealth manager who was not named but who was fired in 2010 after he reported suspected fraud via Wells Fargo’s ethics hotline. OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to pay the ex-manager $5.4 million in back pay, damages and attorneys’ fees.  Wells Fargo has announced it will fight the ruling. Meanwhile, the whistle-blower. who filed his OSHA complaint in 2011, said he has been unable to find a new job since he was fired.

OSHA HAS BEEN CRITICIZED FOR NOT MOVING FAST ENOUGH TO INVESTIGATE COMPLAINTS FILED BY CURRENT AND FORMER WELLS FARGO EMPLOYEES WHO SAY THEY WERE FIRED BECAUSE THEY REFUSED TO ENGAGE IN OR COMPLAINED ABOUT UNETHICAL BEHAVIORS.

A second whistle-blower, retail banker Claudia Ponce de Leon, complained  that she was fired in 2011 about three weeks after calling Wells Fargo’s ethics line to report that bankers under her supervision in Southern California were opening client accounts without permission to meet sales goals.  Her lawyer was quoted  by Reuters last year as stating that she had not yet been interviewed by OSHA.

Meanwhile, some ex-employees of Wells Fargo have turned to the courts.

Melinda Bini, a former manager of Wells Fargo’s Highland Park branch  in New Jersey,  filed a state court lawsuit last month stating she was fired for refusing to manipulate accounts and sell products that weren’t in the customers’ best interests. A former assistant vice-president, she is seeking her job back and damages.

In a sharp contrast to the plight of these whistle-blowers, all 15 members of the Wells Fargo’s board of directors who were nominated for new terms were retained in April, and a stockholder proposal calling for a new report on the root causes of the scandal  failed to receive majority support.

Reuters reported that  the Office of the Comptroller of the Currently, the lead regulator for banks, last month stripped the senior most bank examiner for Wells Fargo, Bradley Linskens, of his supervisory powers.