Just in case there is any doubt, a federal appeals court in New York City ruled last week that age discrimination is entitled to far less protection under the U.S. Constitution than other types of discrimination.
A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York City ruled that age discrimination “does not offend” the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution if it is “rationally related to a legitimate [government] interest. ” They said a law that discriminates on the basis of age must literally be irrational to be unconstitutional. By contrast, federal courts accord race and sex discrimination much more exacting strict and intermediate scrutiny, respectively.
The panel cites Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, an 18-year-old decision by now retired U.S. Supreme Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who speculated that age discrimination differs from other types of discrimination because:
Older persons have not been subjected to a “history of purposeful unequal treatment” and,
“[Old] age also does not define a discrete and insular minority” as the status of old age is one which all persons, regardless or ace or gender, may experience.”
Justice O’Connor’s statements were outdated and dis-proven in 2000.
It’s hard not to be cynical when the EEOC leadership trumpets its commitment to the ideals of Martin Luther King but ignores the reality of age discrimination in employment and, worse, engages in it.
EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic tweeted on MLK Day yesterday:
“Every day at the EEOC, we are reminded of Dr. King’s work, his vision, his prophecy. Our work is a deep part of his legacy. His call to service is what each member of the EEOC brings to our work every day.”
That’s a worthy sentiment but the EEOC has yet to walk the talk when it comes to age inequality.
Not only has the EEOC virtually ignored the problem for years but it sanctions age discrimination in hiring by the federal government and actually engages in the practice itself, thereby undermining enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 in the private sector.
Dr. King understandably focused on the crisis of racial inequality in the United States but his appeal was based on the underlying concept of equal justice for all. One can only wonder whether Dr. King, who was assassinated at age 39, would have recognized that age discrimination is a major hindrance to older minority group workers if he had lived. Continue reading “MLK, the EEOC & Age Discrimination”