Obama’s Misguided Plan to Boost Diversity Through Age Discrimination

A better plan would be to create an equal playing field, regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and age. Isn’t that what Martin Luther King advocated?

In a difficult economy, generations often find themselves pitted against each other for scarce resources, including jobs. But there is a new twist to this theme today. In recent years, the U.S.government has justified age discrimination as a way of increasing  “diversity” in federal hiring.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that permits the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to  bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” The regulations went into effect on July 10, 2012.

Obama said he wanted to remove “barriers” in hiring younger workers  caused by civil service regulations and “to achieve a workforce that represents all segments of society.” Obama  wants to “infuse” the federal government with the “enthusiasm, talents and  unique perspective” of young people.

More recently, Obama’s Labor Secretary, Thomas E. Perez,  publicly endorsed a private initiative by some of America’s leading corporations to blatantly violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by hiring 100,000 disadvantaged inner city residents between the ages of 16 and 24 for full-time and part-time jobs.

There are so many reasons why Obama’s  “winners and losers” plan to boost diversity is just plain  wrong.

 Obama’s strategy is counter intuitive. Discrimination cannot be contained in neat little categories. Age discrimination builds on race and sex discrimination. This is why women, especially minority women, are the most prone to poverty in their old age. Obama’s approach simply kicks the can down the road. Continue reading “Obama’s Misguided Plan to Boost Diversity Through Age Discrimination”

The Marginalization of Older Workers

I am  struck by the almost complete lack of attention paid in the United States to the problem of age discrimination in employment.

I just watched a lengthy video on YouTube featuring Jenny Yang, chairperson of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), addressing the recent annual meeting of the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet), a group that promotes equality in the European Union. She discussed 50 years of the EEOC’s history and its future goals and aspirations. She made one fleeting reference to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 (ADEA), noting the EEOC is responsible for enforcing the ADEA.

In 2014, a tonoworkplacediscriminationtal of 20,588 complaints of age discrimination were filed with the EEOC. That represents 23.2 percent of all of the complaints of employment discrimination filed with the EEOC in 2014. And, that level of complaints has been more or less consistent for years. Age discrimination may not deserve to be the EEOC’s top priority but it should at least be on the EEOC’s radar screen.

A right that is not enforced is an illusion.

Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez has ignored age discrimination except to the extent that he endorsed it in the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, a dubious effort by America’s major corporations to hire 100,000 workers age 16 to 24 for full and –part-time jobs in blatant violation of the ADEA.

And President Barack Obama not only forgot to bolster the ADEA but he fundamentally undermined the ADEA in 2010 when he signed an executive order that permits federal agencies to discriminate on the basis of age, thereby sending a signal to the private sector that age discrimination is A-Okay!

It is interesting to note that Equinet issued a report on ageism in 2012 in which it decried institutional practices that “include the use of age limits to govern access to services or participation in the workplace, other forms of discrimination that exclude older people from work or from key services, and inadequate policy responses to the situation of older people such that they find themselves marginalised and disadvantaged in society.” Continue reading “The Marginalization of Older Workers”

‘Start the Convo’ on Obama & Age Discrimination

The White House on Wednesday will hold a Summit on Worker Voice that supposedly will provide a historic opportunity to bring together workers, employers and labor leaders “to highlight the relationship between worker voice and a thriving middle class.’

But some voices will be missing.  The voices of those who have no work due to systemic, government-approved age discrimination in hiring.

The Obama administration has been deaf to the voices of older workers who are disproportionately mired in long-term unemployment because of the misguided and harmful policies of the Obama’s administration.

In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Pathways “Recent Graduates” Program, which allows federal agencies to engage in age discrimination in hiring.  That order sends a signal to private sector employers that age discrimination in hiring is justified and will be tolerated.

To make things Starbucksworse,  U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez last summer announced his support for a program developed by Starbucks, Microsoft and Walmart, and other leading American corporations, called the “100,000 Opportunities Initiative.” The purpose of the program is to give 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds full and part-time jobs by 2018.
Starbucks couched the initiative as a well-intentioned effort to help young people who face systemic barriers to jobs and educations. Whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and civil rights laws generally do not allow employers to discriminate because they supposedly have good intentions. Besides, older workers also face systemic barriers to jobs. A recent report by AARP found that half of the people in the U.S. between the ages of 45 to 70 who lost their job during the last five years are still not working.

The Obama administration has effectively abandoned a 50-year-old policy of encouraging employment through discrimination-free efforts, such as through education and training.

Readers who think the government should get out of the business of age discrimination are encouraged to “start the convo” using Twitter and the hashtag #StartTheConvo:.

Labor Day: Not Much to Celebrate for Older Workers

United States Flag

There is little for older workers to celebrate this Labor Day 2015.

In recent months, the Obama administration has escalated its unprecedented assault on  the nation’s leading law prohibiting age discrimination in employment, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, blatantly favoring unemployed younger workers over unemployed older workers..

Here’s the status quo:

  • The U.S. government is actively engaged in  age discrimination in the workplace. President Barack Obama in 2010 signed an executive order that permits federal agencies to discriminate against older workers. U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez recently endorsed an effort by a coalition of America’s largest corporations to discriminate against older workers. No one seems to care.
  • Congress has failed for six years to pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA). As a result, it is much more difficult for older workers to prevail in an age discrimination lawsuit than it is for workers who are victims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex (including sexual preference), religion and national origin.The POWADA would remove some of the ruinous damage that the U.S. Supreme Court inflicted on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 2009.
  • No group seems to be advocating for older workers in the halls of Congress. The AARP, which describes itself as the nation’s leading advocate for Americans aged 50 and above, has seen its profits skyrocket since Obamacare was passed. But older Americans have suffered from onerous co-pays and un-reimbursed medical expenses. At this point, almost half of Americans aged 65 and above are considered “economically vulnerable.”  The  AARP is the leading seller of medi-gap health insurance in the United States, and has increasingly expanded its offerings to include everything from new computers to telephones. But apparently the AARP is not making enough money to fight for the passage of  POWADA (see above).
  • Older workers are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the long-term unemployed (those workers who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or longer). Unemployed older workers are twice as likely to be chronically unemployed.  Many are forced to spend down their savings, work in low-wage part-time jobs and, ultimately, retire as soon as possible to obtain Social Security benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 22.1 percent of the unemployed under age 25 had looked for work for 27 weeks or longer in 2014, compared with 44.6 percent of those 55 years and older.  One reason for this sorry state is epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring.
  • The Social Security Administration’s formula for dispersing Social Security benefits favors the rich and penalizes the poor (i.e. long-term unemployed who are forced into a penurious retirement due to age discrimination). Of course, women and minorities who have experienced career-long discrimination in the workplace suffer the most under this ancient benefits formula.

I could go on but you get the idea.  In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I advocate scrapping the ADEA and adding age as a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Library of Congress refuses to catalog my book, to make it available to policy-makers, because it is self-published. Sigh.  If you know a Congressional representative, spread the word.

If older workers and older Americans do not find real advocates in the coming year, it is very likely that nothing will change. 

Rips in the Fabric of the Social Security “Safety Net”

Much of the concern about unemployment today focuses on the alarming number of younger workers who can’t find jobs and not upon the plight of older workers who have the “safety net” of Social Security.

Of course, this is not a contest. It is a tragedy that younger workers are unemployed but it also should be of concern that older Americans are suffering. It is trueEconomic Policy Institute that Social Security keeps older Americans from homelessness and starvation but studies show that 9.5 percent of Americans over the age of 65 (including 11 percent of women) live in poverty and almost half of older Americans are “economically vulnerable.”  The so-called safety net is torn and insecure.

When Social Security was adopted in the 1930s it was not designed to be the sole source of support for older Americans in retirement. It was intended to supplement pensions and savings. The demise of  traditional defined benefit pensions began more than 30 years ago and millions of older workers lost homes and savings during the worst recession in 100 years. (2007-2009).  Many retiring workers today have nominal resources to fall back on aside from Social Security.

It should be (but sadly does not seem to be) of concern to policy-makers that older workers suffer disproportionately from age discrimination in employment and chronic long-term unemployment., which condemns them to poverty or near poverty in retirement. Continue reading “Rips in the Fabric of the Social Security “Safety Net””

100,000 Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act


The appallingly blatant nature of age discrimination in America was recently exposed when more than a dozen major corporations announced a program to hire 100,000 16- to 24-year-olds by 2018.

Starbucks, Microsoft and Walmart, among others, are attempting to make an end run around the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which clearly prohibits age discrimination in hiring.  They are couching their “100,000 Opportunities Initiative” as an well-intentioned effort to help young people “who face systemic barriers to jobs and education.”

Younger workers don’t have a monopoly on systemic barriers to jobs and education.  The unemployment rate is high at both ends of the age spectrum, but older workers often are forced out of the workplace into an ill-advised “early retirement” by disproportionate long-term and chronic unemployment. A recent report by AARP found that half of the people in the U.S., age 45 to 70, who lost their job during the last five years are still not working. Workers forced to retire at  the age of 62 incur at least a 25 percent cut in Social Security benefits; many live in poverty or near poverty for the rest of their lives.

These “leading” corporations have found a cynical way to accomplish an illegal goal. The press release states the initiative includes apprenticeships, internships, training programs, and both part-time and full-time jobs.

The ADEA  states unambiguously that it is unlawful “to fail or refuse to hire” any individual “because of such individual’s age.”

Continue reading “100,000 Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act”