Federal judge says Hollywood’s problem is sex (not age) discrimination

Judge Vince Chhabria, 48.

A federal court judge has dismissed as unconstitutional a 2016 law that prevented the Internet Movie Database (IMDb.com) from posting the ages of actors upon request.

The law was a desperate measure to combat overwhelming age discrimination in hiring in Hollywood, where young women are routinely cast in roles opposite much older men.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said the law violates the First Amendment rights of IMDb.com by preventing it from publishing factual information. Judge Chhabria also said the law  was “underinclusive” because it bans only one kind of speaker from disseminating age-related information.

Interestingly, Judge Chhabria, who was appointed to the bench in 2014 by former President Barack Obama,  opined that the problem in the entertainment industry is not age discrimination but rather sex discrimination. He said the problem was”objectifying women” and “overvaluing their looks while devaluing everything else.”

Aren’t  women being treated less favorably because of their age? That’s age discrimination.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, general counsel of  the Screen Actors Guild told The Sacramento Bee that Judge Chhlabria “fails to understand or recognize the massive impact gender and age discrimination has on all working performers.” He said the union plans to appeal.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1687 into law in 2016. The bill required that “commercial online entertainment service providers” such as IMDbPro remove users’ age upon request.

Will the EEOC Start Holding Feds Accountable for Systemic Age Discrimination?

The EEOC has a new feature on its website called Faces of the ADEA that celebrates the stories of a half-dozen victims of age discrimination who were helped by the EEOC.

In reality, the vast majority of age discrimination victims – tens of thousands of older workers – who have sought justice from the EEOC in the past decade found a deaf ear. Meanwhile, age discrimination in employment – particularly in hiring – has been overt, unaddressed and epidemic.

Nothing in the EEOC’s new strategic plan for 2018-2022  specifically indicates the EEOC intends to improve its pathetic response to age discrimination  in the years ahead but there is one glimmer of hope.

In its new strategic plan, the EEOC announced it will conduct on-site program evaluations of several federal agencies this year “that have been identified through the integrated data system” (i.e. that generate the most discrimination complaints). The EEOC will “issue compliance plans that recommend changes in their employment practices.” The EEOC will review the agency’s implementation of the compliance plans and if their efforts found wanting take “corrective action” if necessary.

Perhaps the worst age discriminator in the United States – in terms of scope and impact – is the  U.S. government, which is also the nation’s largest employer.

The EEOC acknowledges  the federal sector is an “integral part” of combating employment discrimination because it has “tremendous influence” over the employment practices of private and public employers in the United States and around the world. The EEOC says the promotion of equal employment opportunity in the federal government can “positively impact all employees and job-seekers.”

This represents a distinct change of attitude for the EEOC, which has ignored age discrimination by the federal government for years.

This blog in 2013 became a lonely voice in opposition of an executive order signed by former Democratic President Barack Obama that effectively amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to allow federal agencies to discriminate on the basis of age. The EEOC was conspicuously silent when Obama signed the order in 2010 and when it went into effect in 2012.  So far, the Office of Program Management’s Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program has barred older workers from applying for more than 100,000 federal jobs. The EEOC also buried its head in the sand when Obama’s Secretary of Labor Tom Perez endorsed a  hiring initiative  that permitted  America’s largest corporations to engage in age discrimination in hiring.

It  was revealed last year that the EEOC’s appellate unit, the Office of Federal Operations,  dismissed two age discrimination complaints against federal agencies that hired younger workers and bypassed  older workers on purely subjective grounds (i.e., poise,  “cultural fit” , etc).

The EEOC ‘s failure to aggressively enforce the ADEA has flown under the radar for years. One reason is that the EEOC’s actions are secret unless the EEOC chooses to make them public or the complainant does. Many complainants fear publicity will hinder their chances of finding new employment.

In addition,  older Americans lack a strong  public voice. The AARP is apparently too busy making billions from  licensing agreements that exploit its  membership base. And the media  has widely ignored the problem while it engaged in wholesale age discrimination itself .

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the ADEA.

For the “New” News Media, There is No Past, Only a Self-Congratulatory Present

pumping ironFor years, there has been litigation over the fact that the internet is being used to screen out the resumes of older workers and deposit them in a digital trash can.

But suddenly the powers that be are taking notice in the wake of a supposed investigative story on Dec. 20 by ProPublica and The New York Times about Facebook permitting employers to exclude older workers from receiving employment and recruitment ads. That’s a good thing but …

That NYT story was based largely upon a Dec. 20  federal class action lawsuit filed by the Communications Workers of America against major employers that use Facebook to screen out older job applicants. And the CWA lawsuit is the latest of several to challenge the use of internet technology to target young job applicants and screen out older job applicants.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear a case involving a 2010 lawsuit brought by Richard Villarreal against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. that alleged Reynolds hired recruiters to develop an algorithm that was used to screen out older applicants for job vacancies on CareerBuilder (which settled its part of the case out of court). The legal press (including me) wrote extensively about the case.  This matters because it shows that the government has been on notice for years that the internet is being used as a tool to effectuate epidemic age discrimination in hiring. Continue reading “For the “New” News Media, There is No Past, Only a Self-Congratulatory Present”

Another Example of Age Discrimination in the Digital Age

EditorialTeam.The Information
Staff at The Information

Is it any wonder that older people are almost invisible in society today, except for their reliance upon adult diapers, anti-depressants and “Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!”  buttons?

The Information, a New York-based technology web site and magazine start-up,  has rolled out a new subscription plan for people aged 30 and under.

The “Young Professional Plan” offers a discounted rate to the magazine, and a low-cost “all-access plan” and the opportunity to join “a Facebook group only for people 30 and under.”

CEO Jessica E. Lessin, who founded the magazine in 2013, said the plan is “designed to serve people who are early in their careers and haven’t reached their earning potential and are looking for events where they can meet people from outside their own companies.” Lessin is described as a former Wall Street Journal writer “with family money.”

How would Ms. Lessin feel about a networking opportunity for only male professionals?

Continue reading “Another Example of Age Discrimination in the Digital Age”

The New Yorker Wimps Out on Age Discrimination

An article on ageism in the November 20 issue of The New Yorker is oddly detached and completely misses the point.

For one thing, The New Yorker fails in the article, Why Ageism Never Gets Old,  to comprehend perhaps the major reason that age discrimination does not get old.  Age discrimination has its roots in the human psyche but is systematically carried out by individuals, public agencies and private sector employers who have little reason to fear legal consequences.

Age discrimination is rooted in the human psyche but is systematically carried out by employers with little reason to fear legal consequences.

Continue reading “The New Yorker Wimps Out on Age Discrimination”

Federal Judge says Facts Not Plausible

U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. of the Southern District of New York threw out the paralegal”s age discrimination claims because, he said, they were speculative and unsupported by plausible facts.

But what is a plausible fact?

Judge Carter is around the same age as the plaintiff in the case, Terri Jablonski, 49, and that’s where the similarities end. He’s a male graduate of Harvard Law School who was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in 2011. He earns around $200,000 a year and enjoys lifetime tenure.

Jablonski is a female Haverford College graduate who earned a paralegal certificate from New York University. She has 19 years of experience as a paralegal and, according to her attorney, excellent references. But she has hit a roadblock.

 Jablonski filed 41 unsuccessful job applications with the legal staffing firm, Special Counsel, Inc., from August 2, 2013 to July 21, 2015. She was never hired or even referred for placement.

Continue reading “Federal Judge says Facts Not Plausible”

EEOC: Do Qualifications matter or not?

The EEOC appears to be hopelessly confused about the significance of  qualifications in age discrimination case.

This week, the EEOC filed a rare lawsuit alleging age discrimination in hiring. The  EEOC charges that CBS Stations Group of Texas violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act  (ADEA) when it failed to hire Tammy Campbell, 42, for a full-time traffic reporter position because of her age.  An EEOC press release states the station hired a 24-year old female applicant  who was less qualified than Campbell.

The case contradicts the EEOC’s dismissal last month of a lawsuit filed by a 60-year-old woman who was rejected for one of five attorney positions with the Social Security Administration. The novice hiring officer testified the woman was more qualified than some or all of the younger applicants but that he didn’t consider objective qualifications. He said he based his hiring decisions entirely upon whom he thought would be the best fit for the “culture” of the agency.

Do qualifications count, as in the Texas case, or are they irrelevant, as in the Social Security case?

Continue reading “EEOC: Do Qualifications matter or not?”

Large Study Finds Systemic Age Discrimination in High Tech

Silicon ValleyThe only thing shocking about a new study showing that rampant age discrimination exists in the high tech industry is that anyone didn’t already know that.

However, Visier Insights Report: The Truth About Ageism in the Tech Industry, provides fascinating detail based upon a solid database of  330,000 employees from 43 large U.S. enterprises.

A Canada-based provider of workforce analytic services to companies around the world, Visier concludes “systemic ageism” exists in the high tech industry compared to the non-tech industry. The average tech worker is 38 years old, compared to 43 years old for non-tech workers. The average manager in the tech industry is 42 years old, compared to 47 for non-tech industries.

It has been known for years that age discrimination in rampant in Silicon Valley but the EEOC, which is charged with enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act,  has almost completely ignored the problem, even as national magazines featured stories about 30-year-old tech workers flocking to plastic surgeons in an effort to appear young .

The Visier report  is more proof that the high tech workforce is marked by “significant” over-representation of millennials, between the ages of 20 and 33, and Gen X workers, between the ages of 34 and 51. Millennials comprise 42.6 percent of the high tech workforce  compared to 26.1 percent of the non-tech workforce, and Gen X workers comprise 42.6 percent of the high tech workforce compared to 46.4 percent of the non-tech workforce. Continue reading “Large Study Finds Systemic Age Discrimination in High Tech”

Classism and Forced Retirement

PhilosopherAn ugly “class”  issue lurks beneath the argument that older workers should be forced out of the workplace so that younger workers can have their jobs.

The argument is often made by people who enjoy professional status, earn big bucks and look forward to comfortable pensions.  Not by ordinary working stiffs.

This is the case in a recent essay in the Wall Street Journal by two law school professors from the University of Chicago, Saul Levmore, who is around 63 years of age, and Martha Nussbaum, who is 70.

They claim, without citing any supporting data, that the productivity of workers declines after age 50. Performance may decline in some areas for some workers (i.e., quarterbacks and major league pitchers) but aging is individualistic and not uniform. Should we also assume that all women want to be mommies and all men can bench press 500 pounds?

They argue the law should allow employers and employees “to agree” on a retirement age at the start of a new job, so the workers can be terminated “after a certain age” without cause. Don’t they know that few, if any, workers would voluntarily agree to such an onerous contract term. That these contracts would be based on age discrimination and signed under duress.

Why would the Wall Street Journal shine its spotlight on an essay that fails to show any understanding for the plight of older workers or the reality of age discrimination in the workplace? Possibly because six corporations own 90 percent of the media today and these corporations engage in age discrimination.

Ironically, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 initially permitted colleges and universities to involuntarily retire tenured professors at age 65. How would Levmore and Nussbaum feel about being forced to hand their posh jobs over to deserving young PhDs? Continue reading “Classism and Forced Retirement”

Ageism is Bad – Except in Silicon Valley?

GlobalAgingA report last year by the Milken Institute’s Center for the Future of Aging  reaches a shockingly ageist conclusion – a younger workforce is “tremendously beneficial” for growth in industries like Silicon Valley.

The 2016 report, Redefining Traditional Notions of Aging; Embracing Longevity Across Cultures,  discusses the evils of ageism and goes on to state:

“Granted, there are industries and sectors within the economy in which a younger workforce is tremendously beneficial to growth. This is especially true in places like Silicon Valley, the global bastion for young budding technology engineers and entrepreneurs.”

The authors credit Silicon Valley’s youthful workplace for “creative ideas and the abilities to build new products and provide new services have boosted innovation, efficiency, and economic growth.” The report notes the average age at Google is 30; Facebook, 28; LinkedIn 29;  and Apple, 31.

(The authors do not acknowledge that the average ages noted above are the result of pervasive and unaddressed age discrimination in Silicon Valley, which technically is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.) Continue reading “Ageism is Bad – Except in Silicon Valley?”