Why Doesn’t Age Discrimination Count in U.S.?

At the end of the month, most employers with more than 100 employees are required file a form with the EEOC revealing diversity and job category information about the race/ethnicity and gender of their workforce.

But companies are nUnemployment Benefitsot required to tell the EEOC anything about the age of their workers.

The EEOC lacks the type of critical data about age that it collects and uses to prevent and hold employers accountable for race or sex discrimination.

 This is yet another way that age discrimination is ignored and rendered invisible in the United State.

According to the EEOC, the information from Equal Employment Opportunity – 1 Reports (EEO-1) is used to:

  • “… support civil rights enforcement and to analyze employment patterns, such as the representation of female and minority workers within companies, industries or regions.”; and
  • “…to determine which company establishments to select for compliance reviews.”

Employers must provide statistics with respect to the number of minorities and women in their workforce and in what capacity they work. This is significant because it puts informal pressure on employers to hire minorities and women for “careers” rather than jobs.

For obvious reasons, employers are loathe to tell the EEOC that 16 of a company’s 17 African-American employees work the janitorial pool or 39 of the firm’s 40 female employees are secretaries or administrative assistants. It looks bad. This provides an incentive for  employers to actually recruit and hire minorities and females for professional “career” positions.

With no requirement to divule the age of employees, employers lack incentive to hire older workers or, more importantly, the incentive not to discirminate against jobless older workers. Some employment sectors in the United States are widely known to be  virtual apartheid sectors for younger workers – most notably Silicon Valley.

Why not include age? The ostensible reason is that reporting for race/ethnicity and gender is required under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but it is not required under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964. But the real reason involves profound ignorance about the nature and harm of age discrimination and the lack of commitment to the ideal of equal justice under the law.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I demonstrate indisputably that older workers are second class citizens under the laws of the United States. Compared to Title VII, the ADEA is riddled with loopholes – some based on outdated ageist stereotypes – and the ADEA lacks equivalent provisions for damages. This situation has existed completely unchallenged in America for almost 50 years. I call for repeal of the ADEA and adding age as a protected class under Title VII so that age discrimination is treated at least as seriously as other types of employment discrimination.

There is no difference between age discrimination and other types of  irrational harmful discrimination that is based on fear and animus toward a discrete group –  except that age discrimination is tolerated and invisible.

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