Older workers could learn a lesson from the recent flap at the University of Missouri.
University President Tim Wolfe was forced last week to step down after a group, Concerned Student 1-9-5-0, issued a written set of demands. The group demanded Wolfe issue a handwritten apology acknowledging his white male privilege, commit verbally to fulfil the group’s demands and then immediately step down.
The clincher occurred when the university’s football team s refused to play unless the group’s demands were met.
On the books, African-Americans have far more rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be free from discrimination in employment than older workers of all ethnic backgrounds have under the Age discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Moreover, President Barack Obama has endorsed age discrimination in the federal government, and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez has sanctioned it in the private sector. Older workers have never been able to attain equal justice from the U.S. Supreme Court because the court accords age its lowest standard of review, far lower than is accorded race.
In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I advocate adding age as a protected class to Title VII. This was the original idea in 1964 but Congress felt more study was needed about age discrimination. When the ADEA finally was passed it was riddled with loopholes and permitted a wide swath of discrimination that would be illegal under Title VII.
Older workers literally have been second-class citizens under U.S. law for almost 50 years.
Today, older workers are subject to blatant and legal age discrimination, especially in hiring, resulting in disproportionate and chronic joblessness. Many are relegated to low-wage part-time and temp work until they are dumped into a financially ill-advised forced retirement that will leave them at risk for poverty for the rest of their lives. This devastating scenario hits women and minorities the hardest.
Older workers obviously need a football team.