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.
The complaints allege that two federal sector agencies violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 when they ignored the superior qualifications of the older applicants and hired far less qualified applicants under the age of 40 based upon subjective factors.
In one case, the Social Security Administration admitted that its hiring officer selected five applicants under the age of 40 – and rejected two highly qualified candidates age 47 and 60 – based upon how he thought they would fit within the “culture” of an SSA office that had not yet even opened. The hiring officer, a middle aged male, said he completely ignored objective qualifications, finding them to be “irrelevant.”
In the other case, a superbly qualified white male candidate, 48, was rejected in favor of a minimally qualified African American female candidate in her 20s because she may have had more poise, compassion, leadership and the ability to deal with stress.
The EEOC is extremely skeptical and carefully parses the use of subjective criteria in the hiring process when it involves race, sex, religion, national origin and color. The EEOC issued a policy guidance stating that hiring for cultural fit was discriminatory in a case involving national origin.
The EEOC has declined to comment upon why hiring for cultural fit is legal in age discrimination cases. The EEOC appears to have adopted a double standard that is completely unsupported by the ADEA and federal case law and which appears in itself be considered discriminatory.
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.
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.
A 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.
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?
The EEOC ignored legal precedent in August when it dismissed two age discrimination cases where older job applicants were rejected in favor of far less qualified applicants under the age of 40.
A search of precedential case law on the EEOC ‘s own web site revealed a federal appeals court decision holding that an employer’s failure to hire a candidate who is significantly better qualified for the job raises a question of illegal discrimination.
This precedent was not followed by Carlton M. Hadden, Jr., director of the EEOC’s appellate unit, who dismissed two age discrimination complaints in August. The cases were filed by a female attorney, 60, and a white police detective, 48, who were not hired despite having substantially more objective qualifications than selectees under the age of 40. The EEOC upheld Hadden’s rulings. In the attorney’s case, the hiring officer testified he ignored objective qualifications entirely and based his hiring decisions on cultural fit.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006 cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that “qualifications evidence may suffice, at least in some circumstances,” to show that an employer’s proffered explanation is pretext for discrimination. Ash v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 546 U.S. 454, 457, 126 S.Ct. 1195, 163 L.Ed.2d 1053 (2006).
Memo to EEOC: There is an inference of discrimination when when a plaintiff is “significantly better qualified” than the candidate who was hired.
The EEOC has declined to comment on its decision to uphold an administrative ruling that dismissed an age discrimination case where a hiring officer said he ignored objective qualifications and hired workers based on cultural fit.
The ruling by Carlton M. Hadden, director of the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, involved an allegation of age discrimination by a 60-year-old woman who was not selected for one of five vacancies for the position of attorney decision-writer at a new Social Security Administration office in Reno, NV in 2011.
The novice hiring officer testified that he completely ignored objective qualifications when he selected five applicants under the age of 40. After three or four applicants declined the job, the hiring officer selected a 42-year-old male applicant. The hiring officer initially said he rejected the 60-year-old female applicant because she lacked enthusiasm during a 20-minute telephone interview. He agreed she was more objectively qualified than most or all of the other applicants but said she did not fit within his perception of SSA “culture.”
The worst thing about the federal government’s policy of institutionalized age discrimination is that it undermines respect in the government’s promise to insure equal justice for all.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Washington, DC, recently defended the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program, which allows federal agencies to limit job vacancies to individuals who graduated from high school, technical school and college within the past two years.
Yasmin A. Rosa, who identifies herself as “lead EEO Specialist” for the OPM, states in a recent letter that the Pathways Program “does not discriminate against anyone” because it is legal under an executive order signed in 2010 by former Democratic President Barack H. Obama.
Several years ago, I filed a formal complaint with the EEOC that attorney internet job search web sites were blatantly discriminating in hiring on the basis of age.
I did this after finding dozens of ads targeting members of the most recent graduating class(es) on Lawjobs.com.
Months later, the EEOC, which supposedly implements the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), sent me a piece of paper saying that it was not going to do anything but I could file a lawsuit if I wanted to. Not being independently wealthy, I had no choice but to pass.
Today, I looked again. I found absolutely no ads on Lawjobs.com for “recent graduates” or “members of the Class of….” What does this mean?
Does it mean the search engine is not engaging in age discrimination or does it mean that age discrimination is now taking place behind the scenes?
It’s hard to conclude that Lawjobs.com has gone “straight” given a series of events that have come to light which showcase the role of internet job search engines in age discrimination.
In the case of Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, the plaintiff applied a half-dozen times for a territory sales manager job only to learn the company was using internet software behind the scenes on Careerbuilder.com to target resumes from workers with fewer than eight years of experience.
Reynolds hired 1,024 applicants for territory sales manager positions over a three-year period, of whom only 19 were over the age of 40.
A federal appeals court last year eliminated any prospect for a class action lawsuit in the Reynolds case when it ruled the ADEA does not cover job applicants who are the victims of systemic and calculated age discrimination in hiring because they are not “employees.” This ruling, by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, remains in effect today in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a press release recently stating she began investigating alleged age discrimination by internet search engines after a 70-year-old man complained that a resume building tool on Jobr, an app owned by Monster Worldwide, excluded job applicants over the age of 52. A drop down menu required applicants to select the year they graduated or got their first job but the dates only went back to 1980.
Madigan queried six job search engines about their practices. So far, three have responded, CareerBuilder, Beyond and Indeed. All admitted to using resume building software containing age limitations that deter older applicants; all said they fixed the software upon learning of Madigan’s concerns.
I think it is reasonable to conclude that many (if not most) internet search engines for years have silently engaged in age discrimination against older job applicants. This has contributed to longstanding chronic unemployment for older workers, who often are forced to retire as soon as they become eligible to receive Social Security benefits, whereupon they quietly disappear from government employment statistics. Age discrimination in hiring makes it impossible for older job applicants to earn a decent wage and to finance a secure retirement. As a result, many, particularly women, endure an old age marked by difficult choices, anxiety and poverty.
But who is going to stop it?
Madigan told NPR that her office simply wants to stop the specific practice that relates to discriminatory resume building tools but not file a lawsuit.
The AARP has done virtually nothing about age discrimination in employment for 50 years; It wrote an amicus or friend of the court brief in the Reynolds case.
The EEOC is almost completely absent from the age discrimination scene, despite an unprecedented increase in age discrimination complaints during and since the Great Recession. It filed two – yes, two – lawsuits with age discrimination claims last year. Age discrimination complaints comprise almost a quarter of all complaints received by the EEOC.
Me? Alas, I still can’t afford to finance years of complex litigation against some of America’s largest corporations.
My 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, chronicles the epic failure of all three branches of government to address the completely predictable problem of age discrimination during and since the collapse of Wall Street. It is an appalling abdication of governmental responsibility and it continues.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has warned six national career and job search companies that some of their search functions could violate state and federal age discrimination laws.
In a press release Thursday, Madigan announced she has sent letters seeking information about company practices from Chicago-based CareerBuilder, Indeed, Beyond.com, Ladders, Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.
Madigan expressed concern about practices that appear to prevent older workers from creating accurate resumes and profiles when searching for new careers and submitting information to potential employers.
In particular, she focused upon sites that require job seekers to input dates of previous work experience and education but only allow those born after a certain year to do so. For example, one company provided 1980 as the earliest possible choice for users’ education or previous employment start dates. Users over the age of 52 were unable to complete accurate profiles to apply for available positions.
Madigan’s Civil Rights Bureau is examining these practices.
It’s no secret that internet job search engines for years have quietly used software to divert applications by older workers into a digital trash can.
The problem of discriminatory practices by job search engines vividly came to light in a 2012 lawsuit filed against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. by Richard M. Villarreal, who at age 49 submitted the first of several unsuccessful internet job applications to Reynolds. Villarreal filed an age discrimination lawsuit after learning that Reynolds had contracted with two recruiting firms to develop internet screening tools to screen out applicants having eight to ten years of experience. CareerBuilder.com was a defendant in that case.
The Villarreal case ultimately was gutted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which ruled that job applicants cannot sue employers under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for promulgating policies and practices that discriminate in hiring on the basis of age. The appeals court said the ADEA does not cover job applicants, only employees.
Since then, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled in the case of Rabin v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers thatthe ADEA does permit so-called disparate impact lawsuits on behalf of job applicants.
Madigan cites both the ADEA and the Illinois Human Rights Act.
“Today’s workforce includes many people working in their 70’s and 80’s,” Madigan said in the release. “Barring older people from commonly used job-search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy.”