EEOC Official Acknowledges Challenge of Age Discrimination

Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has issued a far-ranging indictment of employment-based age discrimination in America.

EEOCCathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has issued a far-ranging indictment of employment-based age discrimination in America.

Vontrell-Monsees Tuesday told  the National Press Foundation Tuesday that “there’s no question age discrimination is a challenge for older workers.”

So does this mean the EEOC will actually do something about the scourge of age discrimination now?

In what may be foreboding news for Silicon Valley, she singled out open and flagrant age discrimination in the high tech industry.  “Some of our officers have made it a priority in looking at age discrimination in the tech industry,” she said, during a question and answer period.

She observed that 70% of IT staff surveyed by Information Week said they’ve witnesses or experienced age discrimination. In addition, she said, 42% of age 50+ workers in the high tech industry consider age to be a liability in their career – more than double the rate of other industries.  She also pointed to job advertisements in the tech industry for “digital natives,” “recent” or “new” graduates or “Class of 2007 or 2008 preferred”.

Vontrell-Monsees’ address is significant because the EEOC has ignored an unprecedented increase in age discrimination claims that began with the Great Recession.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that the number of age discrimination claims jumped from 19,103 in 2007 to an all-time high of 24,582 in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of lawsuits filed by the EEOC with age discrimination claims declined from a modern-day high of 50 in 2006 to a low of seven lawsuits in 2013. This despite the fact that age discrimination catapults older workers into long-term unemployment, forced retirement, and poverty or near poverty in their old age.

Here are some of other points made by Ventrell-Monsees in her address :

  • Unemployment for people aged 50 and older more than doubled to 7.6%from 2007 to 2011.
  • Older workers remain unemployed for the longest periods – 36 weeks in 2011 compared to 26 weeks for younger job seekers.
  • More than one-third of all unemployed older workers in 2011 had been unemployed for more than a year.
  • Long-term unemployment leads to earlier retirement and a lower standard of living in retirement.

Surveys show most older workers report that age discrimination is very or somewhat common at their workplace, and this is particularly true for older women, who are disproportionately targeted for workplace abuse and age discrimination.

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