Is the EEOC Finally Noticing Age Discrimination?

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 vies with higher education as the most egregious in terms age discrimination.

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EEOC charges that Strategic Legal Resources, Inc., a  staffing firm that does business as Strategic Legal Solutions, rescinded an offer of hire made to attorney Claudia Zacks after she complied with a company request to provide her date of birth.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

New Book on the Legalization of Age Discrimination

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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‘Want Ads’ and Age Discrimination

Are you a recent college graduate … Pulte Mortgage (a subsidiary of Pulte Homes) is always looking for energetic and motivated individuals who are ready to take the first step in building a long-term mortgage career! – Simply Hired, 6/26/14.

“We are currently seeking an associate with 2-3 (MAXIMUM) years of Labor and Employment experience.” – Craig’s List,  6/26/14

Anyone who doesn’t think that age discrimination is rampant and unaddressed in American society should take a look at the “want ads.”

An easy and obvious way that employers  discriminate against older applicants is to require job applicants  to be recent college graduates or to have a maximum amount of experience.  These types of advertisements are seen on most if not all  Internet hiring sites.

One reason  the U.S. Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967 was to prohibit  job advertisements  that barred applicants over a certain age from applying. At that time, one-half of all private-sector job openings explicitly barred applicants over the age of 55 and one-quarter barred workers over the age of 45.  More than 60 percent of low-skilled industrial jobs had age cut-offs between 35 and 49 years of age, and 13 percent of sales jobs were limited to workers under the age of 35.

Imagine being 35 years old and barred from applying for a sales job!  Wait a minute.  You don’t have to. You can be barred from applying  for a sales job today at the age of 35 if you have more than two or three years of experience.

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Google Omits Age from Diversity Goals

Something is missing from diversity statistics posted online  this week by Google – information about the age of its workforce.

Google posted statistics showing a workforce that is (surprise!) incredibly non-diverse in gender and race.  Google’s workforce is  70 percent male and 30 percent female. And Google’s workforce is 61 percent white  and 30 percent Asian. Only three percent of Google’s workforce are Hispanic, two percent are African-American and four percent are described as “two or more races.”

The numbers apparently were compiled as part of a report that major U.S. employers must file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The EEOC report collects information about sex and race.  Companies are not required to make the information public.

Google  chose to publicly divulge  the damning figures about its overwhelmingly white male workforce, but did not reveal the ages of its employees.  Isn’t that a statistic that Google deems important in terms of measuring a diverse workforce?  Just how  many workers at Google are over the age of 40, the age at which workers fall under the protection of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

One can only speculate why Google has ignored age in its discussion of diversity. Possibly the numbers are drastically askew and Google fears an age discrimination lawsuit.  It’s not exactly a secret that  Silicon Valley generally and Google, in particular,  celebrate a youth culture.

A few years ago, Google settled a lawsuit alleging age discrimination by Brian Reid, who was hired by Google in a senior tech role when he was age 54 .  Reid  left after two years when he was re-assigned to head up a new program with no staff that was quickly phased out..  Reid said supervisors and co-workers at Google made  derogatory comments about his age, stating that he was not a “cultural fit” for the company, that he was “an old man,” “slow,” “sluggish,” “lethargic” and “an old fuddy-duddy” who “lacked energy.” Co-workers allegedly joked that Reid’s CD (compact disc) jewel case office placard should be an “LP” (which stands for long-playing record). The lawsuit was reportedly settled after the California Court of Appeals said Reid had presented undisputed evidence supported a prima facie case of age discrimination.

According to a story in  the New Republic, age thirty is over-the-hill in Silicon Valley, where “[t]ech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old.”

The  diversity statistics provided by Google are even worse than they first appear. Of the 30 percent of Google’s workforce who are female, only about 18 percent work in professional tech jobs.  Only one percent of blacks and two percent of Hispanics who work at Google work in prize tech jobs.

Of the company’s “leadership” team, 79 percent are male and 21 percent are female;  72 percent are white; 23 percent are Asian; two percent are black; 1.5 percent are identified as “two or more races” and one percent are Hispanic.