Georgetown Faces Yet Another Major Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Yet more evidence that institutions of higher education blatantly engage in age discrimination in hiring.

George Mazza, 62, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgetown University alleging he applied for and was denied admission to a university doctoral program in theology studies in the Fall of  2017 because of his age.

He alleges a member of the admissions committee “indicated the preeminent selection criterion was whether the admissions candidate would likely find on graduation a full-time tenure track faculty position at a major university.”

Mazza states a faculty member who encouraged him to apply for admission to the program, Dr. Peter C. Phan, told him the admissions committee could not justify offering him a position because no major university would consider hiring him because of his age at the time of graduation (estimated to be 68).

The on-line application for the theology program included specific questions about the applicant’s age,  the date of the applicant’s undergraduate degree, and the number of years of the candidate’s relevant work or professional experience.

Georgetown, in its response to the complaint, asserts that Mazza “was not among the most qualified candidates for admission to the program.”

Mazza holds several advanced degrees and serves in a senior position in the DOJ, supervising a team of experienced attorneys who investigate complex civil rights cases and representing the DOJ on a White House interagency initiative on religion issues.

Georgetown was a defendant in an earlier notorious case of age discrimination in hiring filed by the late Nicholas Speeth, a former state Attorney General in North Dakota who sought a full-time law teaching position in 2010. Spaeth applied for vacancies at 172 law schools through the American Association of Law Schools but was invited to only two interviews and did not receive any job offers.

Spaeth, then 60, was a magna cum laude graduate of Stanford Law School, a Rhodes Scholar, former U.S. Supreme Court Clerk and general counsel for three publicly held companies with billions in assets – including H & R Block.

Georgetown hired a 35-year-old applicant who had worked for only two years as a “tax associate” at a law firm.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal-Huevell of the D.C. circuit dismissed Spaeth’s case on a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, disregarding seemingly overwhelming evidence of age discrimination. She was required to interpret all evidence in Spaeth’s favor but seemed to do the opposite. For example, she said the work “young” in an internal Georgetown memorandum that discussed the need to hire “promising young scholars” did not refer to age but to “new.”  Judge Segal-Huevell took semi-retired or senior status on June 3, 2014.

Mazza alleges Georgetown violated the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which makes it unlawful for a program receiving federal financial assistance to discriminate on the basis of age. and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977.

The lawsuit, Mazza v. Georgetown University, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on February 12, 2018.

EEOC Denies Freedom of Information Act Requests Re. ‘Cultural Fit’ Ruling

The EEOC has refused to answer several Freedom of Information Act requests asking why it is appropriate to base hiring decisions on “cultural fit”  in age discrimination cases but not in cases involving discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color or national origin.

The EEOC:

  • Denied a request to provide copies of decisions issued by the EEOC in the past decade involving the use of “cultural fit”in the hiring process;
  • Denied a request to identify the legal basis for applying a different legal standard with respect to hiring complaints  filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act compared to complaints filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
  • Denied a request to identify whether any outside agency, committee or commission reviews the adherence of the EEOC to legal standards.

The FOIA letter, signed by Kimberly J. Hall, an EEOC government information specialist, failed to cite any basis for the EEOC’s refusal to disclose agency records. She states the EEOC is not required to answer questions.

Last fall, the EEOC upheld two decisions by  its appellate arm, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations,  dismissing age discrimination cases where federal agencies based  hiring decisions upon subjective criteria. The EEOC cited  no legal precedent for  dismissing the importance of objective qualifications  (i.e. education and experience) in the hiring process in age discrimination cases and ignored well-settled legal precedent holding otherwise. Continue reading “EEOC Denies Freedom of Information Act Requests Re. ‘Cultural Fit’ Ruling”

The American Lawyer forms a ‘Young Lawyer’ Editorial Board

Gina Passarella Cipriani

It is ironic that the legal profession is one of the worst in terms of adherence to the age discrimination in employment.

There are many lawsuits describing how law firms use creative means to get rid of older workers and law firms in past years have run ads that  blatantly targeted new attorneys for hire, while discouraging older lawyers.

Perhaps it should be no surprise the The American Lawyer, a monthly magazine published by ALM Media in New York City, has “proudly” announced it has formed a “Young Lawyer Editorial Board.” The members “range from just a year or so out of law school to some serving as young partners in their firms.” According to the magazine’s web site: “The goal of this board is to serve as a voice for the next generation of professionals in the legal profession.”

Is there an old editorial board that is the voice of the past generation?

Continue reading “The American Lawyer forms a ‘Young Lawyer’ Editorial Board”

U.S. Supreme Court Opts to Review Lesser of Two Evils

The U.S. Supreme Court had a choice of reviewing two cases involving age discrimination.

One  involves an obscure issue. A  small government agency near Tucson, AZ,  is arguing it does not have to follow the  Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) because it has fewer than 20 employees.

The other involves the major issue of our day  – systemic age discrimination in hiring.  R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. used internet technology from 2007 to 2010 to weed out 20,000 applications submitted by older workers for the position of sales manager and targeted workers who were “2-3 years out of college” who “easily adjusts to change.”

Guess which case the Court selected for review. Continue reading “U.S. Supreme Court Opts to Review Lesser of Two Evils”

The US is Inexplicably Backwards about Age Discrimination in Employment

As an American, it is frustrating to read about the steps that Great Britain is taking to attack age discrimination in employment.

The British government is actively working to address the problem because it considers age discrimination a threat to future economic growth. The UK  estimates that if everyone in the UK worked just one year longer, the country’s gross domestic product would increase by one percent.

By contrast, every branch of the US government has made the problem of age discrimination in employment much worse in recent years. Continue reading “The US is Inexplicably Backwards about Age Discrimination in Employment”

EEOC Appears to be Alone in Sanctioning Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’

Note to EEOC:  Hiring for “cultural fit” is also frowned on by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest HR professional society, representing 285,000 members in more than 165 countries.

In  Hiring in the Age of Ageism , the SHRM advises employers to “work to structure interviews around skill sets, rather than softer ‘fit’ factors that can be a cover for discrimination. ”

The  EEOC upheld two rulings in age discrimination cases last fall  by its appellate division, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations (OFO), that endorsed hiring based on purely subjective factors like poise and cultural fit.  Continue reading “EEOC Appears to be Alone in Sanctioning Hiring for ‘Cultural Fit’”

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.

AARP Ignores the EEOC’s Discriminatory Rulings in Age Discrimination Cases

Note: A spokesperson for the EEOC on 2/7/18 announced the EEOC has adopted a procedure to review ethical complaints against the Agency staff.  Gary J. Hozempa, a staff attorney in the EEOC Office of Legal Counsel, said he and his team are responsible for “considering ethics issues that arise in the workplace about EEOC employees.”  He saId the current head of the Office of Legal Counsel, Carol R. Miaskoff, Associate Legal Counsel, is EEOC’s Designated Agency Ethics Official.  PGB

Since EEOC decisions are secret, there is no way of telling how many older workers have had their age discrimination complaints  dismissed on spurious and discriminatory grounds.

It came to light last fall that the EEOC upheld two rulings by its appellate division dismissing age discrimination complaints where the federal government ignored objective qualifications and used purely subjective criteria (i.e., cultural fit, poise)  to make promotion and hiring decisions. The rulings contradict EEOC stated policy, EEOC rulings in race and sex discrimination cases, and settled federal case law. The rulings go beyond the EEOC’s generally dismissive treatment of age discrimination and reflect actual age bias.

Then it became apparent the EEOC is unaccountable to the public. The EEOC has no appeal process. There is no EEOC ombudsperson to investigate complaints against the agency. Incredibly, the EEOC even lacks a procedure for filing ethical complaints against the EEOC’s so-called “administrative judges.” The EEOC Office of Inspector General takes the position that it is not its job to investigate complaints related to EEOC rulings.

The AARP & EEOC declined to comment on the discriminatory rulings.

Continue reading “AARP Ignores the EEOC’s Discriminatory Rulings in Age Discrimination Cases”

Communications Union Attacks Facebook Ads that Discriminate based on Age

FacebookA major lawsuit has been filed against a class of “hundreds” of American employers that allegedly “routinely” exclude older workers from receiving employment and recruitment ads on Facebook.

The lawsuit, filed by the Communications Workers of America in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, specifically names three plaintiffs, T-Mobile USA, Inc., Amazon com, Inc. and Cox Media Group, LLC.

The union seeks seek an injunction “to stop America’s leading companies from engaging in unlawful age discrimination in employment.”

According to the lawsuit, Facebook requires employers or employment agencies seeking to post job advertisements to select the age range of Facebook users who will be eligible to receive the ad. The lawsuit alleges that employers routinely target users who are under the age of forty.

This is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed to halt the use of Internet screening tools that target younger workers and screen out older workers.

Continue reading “Communications Union Attacks Facebook Ads that Discriminate based on Age”

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”