Older Workers Barred from Applying for Tens of Thousands of Federal Jobs

Tens of thousands of U.S. jobs have been reserved for  younger workers since 2012 under the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s on-going Pathways Program, which permits federal agencies to limit hiring to recent college graduates.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the OPM disclosed on June 13 that a total of 29,595 candidates were selected for employment under the Pathways Program from May 2012  to  Fiscal Year 2014.   Of the total, 27,423 were under the age of 40 and 2,172 were over the age of 40. The OPM claims its data only covers that period but clearly the loss of opportunity to work for the federal government continues for older workers.  It is fair to assume that older workers have been barred from applying for at least 60,000 federal jobs.

Of the total, 92.7 % of the Pathways Program hires were UNDER the age of 40; only 7.3 % were OVER the age of 40.

The Pathways Program permits federal agencies to limit hiring to applicants who apply within two years of earning a post-high school or college degree. Specifically, the program is “open to applicants who have completed a qualifying post-high school educational program (e.g., technical or vocational school; two-or-four year college or university; graduate or professional school) within the preceding two years.”  Veterans have six years to apply.

The OPM disingenuously took the position that any individual who meets the qualification can apply regardless of age. However, as the OPM’s letter shows, the vast majority of recent college graduates are under the age of 40. The program represents a form of age discrimination in violation of the  Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 called disparate impact discrimination. The hiring policy is a seemingly neutral policy that has a egregious disproportionate and adverse affect on older workers.

Former President Barack H. Obama  sought to create an exception to the ADEA when he created the Pathways Program by signing Executive Order 13562 into law on December 27, 2010. Without citing any research or other supporting documentation, Obama claimed the federal government was at a disadvantage in hiring young people due to the competitive hiring process. The Pathways Program took effect on January 6, 2012, sixty days after the OPM issued regulations to implement the program.

Unfortunately, neither the EEOC nor the AARP, which claims to represent older Americans, acknowledged the  discriminatory impact of the Executive Order  at the time or took any subsequent steps to oppose it. This blog raised the issue of age discrimination in the Pathways Program several years ago but business continues as usual.

As a result of the Pathways Program, older workers, still suffering from the ravages of the Great Recession, were barred from participating in the recovery.  The federal government is the nation’s largest employer.

Three years ago,  when I first wrote about the Pathways Program, I observed with some incredulity that my blog might be the only source in the nation that has acknowledge the devastating impact of the Pathways Program on older workers.  I noted the Pathways Program not only discriminates against older workers but it sends a message to the private sector that age discrimination in hiring is acceptable and it likely discouraged enforcement of the ADEA by the EEOC.

The FOI request was filed by a job seeker who has filed an age discrimination complaint with the EEOC alleging age discrimination in hiring by the federal government.