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 true 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.
Private employers are criticized for doing what the federal government does – engaging in blatant age discrimination in hiring.
There is renewed focus upon a discriminatory practice that has been around for many years – job advertisements that use blatant code words to attract younger applicants and deter older applicants.
Fortune Magazine recently noted that employers in the media, advertising and tech industries, have begun advertising for “digital natives,” which is code for workers aged 30 or below.
This may be new to Fortune but I filed a complaint in September 2010 with the EEOC complaining about this very issue. I provided documentation showing that the major internet job search site for attorneys, ALM’s Lawjobs.com, featured literally hundreds of advertisements for attorney jobs containing blatant age limitations. I provided more than a dozen examples of discriminatory ads taken from the site. Some of the ads sought attorneys who graduated during a defined and recent period of time, such as from 2004 to 2007. Other ads sought attorneys with limited experience, such as three-to-five years of experience. Given that the average age of law school graduates is about 25 years of age, I felt these ads violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Indeed, the ads fundamentally were no different than the notorious “whites only” job ads of the Jim Crow era.
I took the step of filing an EEOC complaint because I felt attorneys should be both knowledgeable about age discrimination and serve as officers of the court who pledge to follow the law. Moreover, judges are plucked from the ranks of attorneys and it’s hard enough to win an age discrimination case. That attorneys and the search firms they hire to place their job advertisements felt no compunction about engaging in blatant age discrimination seemed to me to be indicative of a much wider problem.