OPM Dismisses Complaint about OPM’s Discriminatory Hiring Program

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has dismissed a complaint filed by a New York man who was barred from applying for a federal job in 2017 because he had not graduated from college within the past two years.

Kathleen M. MGettigan, then acting director of the OPM,  stated in a 3/7/18 letter to the complainant, Brian Neary, that the OPM lacks jurisdiction “over the legality” of the Pathway’s Recent Graduates Program because it was the result of an executive order by former President Barack H. Obama.

The OPM program is an example of  systemic and institutionalized age discrimination in hiring.

Obama created the Pathways Recent Graduates Program in 2010 to serve as a back-door exemption to  Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which expressly prohibits the consideration of age as a factor in hiring. The Pathways program is a type of  age discrimination known as  “disparate impact discrimination,” where a seemingly neutral policy has an adverse impact on older workers. The vast majority of recent graduates are under the age of 40.

It is estimated the program, which went into effect in 2012, has barred older workers from applying for 100,000 federal jobs and counting. The U.S. government is America’s largest employer.

Neary, then 49, was prohibited from applying for the position of Financial Institutions Specialist  with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation because he obtained a Masters of Business Administration more than two years prior to his application.

An only child, Neary said he was forced to leave his former employer, DLJ/ Credit Suisse, to care for his mother, who is now deceased, after she incurred congestive heart failure and other complications.

Neary said he is going to appeal the OPM’s decision to the EEOC and may file a lawsuit.

Neary sent a letter last week to Jeff T.H. Pon, newly-appointed director of the OPM,  urging him to contact President Donald Trump and encourage him to permanently revoke the Pathways Recent Graduates Program.  Until then, he asked Pon to”[b]e proactive. Unilaterally suspend the OPM Pathways Program pending his revoking President Obama’s ‘legacy’ Executive Order.”

The AARP, which claims to advocate for Americans aged 50+, has failed even to respond to Neary’s request for  assistance.   (The AARP also has completely ignored discriminatory rulings by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in age discrimination cases.)

At this point, one wonders how the AARP –  which collects dues from 38 million older Americans – defines the term”advocacy.”

It is more than a little ironic that the OPM traces its history to the Civil Service Act of 1883 , which was passed to end the corrupt spoils system of partisan hiring in the U.S. government.

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”

EEOC Rulings Validate Hiring Youngest Candidates with Fewest Objective Qualifications

The EEOC, in recent rulings, appears to have completely subverted the stated goal of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is to insure the most qualified candidate gets the job.

When former President Lyndon Johnson signed the ADEA fifty years ago, qualifications referred to criteria that were largely capable of objective measurement,  like education, experience and achievement.

In August, the director of the Office of Federal Operations, Carlton M. Hadden, Jr., issued at least two decisions finding no discrimination in cases where highly-qualified applicants were passed over for much younger applicants with far few objective qualifications.

Hadden ruled that a white male police detective, 48, with 20 years of high-level experience in law enforcement, failed to show he was more qualified for the position of lead police officer  at the Dallas veteran’s medical center than a female African-American in her 20s whose experience was limited to a stint in the Army military police. Hadden said the female candidate “arguably has more experience in the intangible areas sought by the (hiring panel), such as poise, compassion, leadership, and the ability to cope with stress …”

Hadden ignored the significance of procedural irregularities in the hiring process because, he said, the complainant didn’t prove the veteran’s center intended to discriminate when it failed to follow its own regulations and the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement in the hiring process. Continue reading “EEOC Rulings Validate Hiring Youngest Candidates with Fewest Objective Qualifications”

Federal Judge says Facts Not Plausible

U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. of the Southern District of New York threw out the paralegal”s age discrimination claims because, he said, they were speculative and unsupported by plausible facts.

But what is a plausible fact?

Judge Carter is around the same age as the plaintiff in the case, Terri Jablonski, 49, and that’s where the similarities end. He’s a male graduate of Harvard Law School who was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in 2011. He earns around $200,000 a year and enjoys lifetime tenure.

Jablonski is a female Haverford College graduate who earned a paralegal certificate from New York University. She has 19 years of experience as a paralegal and, according to her attorney, excellent references. But she has hit a roadblock.

 Jablonski filed 41 unsuccessful job applications with the legal staffing firm, Special Counsel, Inc., from August 2, 2013 to July 21, 2015. She was never hired or even referred for placement.

Continue reading “Federal Judge says Facts Not Plausible”

Feds Defense of Discriminatory Hiring Program; It’s Legal?

PathwaysThe 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.

(So, wait a minute, slavery and denying women the right to vote weren’t discriminatory because they were legal?) Continue reading “Feds Defense of Discriminatory Hiring Program; It’s Legal?”

Will the AARP Fight for Seniors or Itself?

AARPHouse Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal to essentially privatize Medicare to cut costs is causing fear among older Americans who rely upon Medicare for health coverage.

Who is fighting to  protect the interests of older Americans?

Today, the AARP’s web site features the “Ultimate Super Bowl Quiz,” hot travel deals, and suggestions about what movies to watch this weekend. Toward the bottom of the page, there are two links, “AARP on the Front Lines Defending Medicare,” and “Tell Congress to Protect Medicare.”

The AARP has a complicated relationship with Medicare. It is the nation’s largest purveyor of supplemental Medi-gap health insurance, reaping literally billions each year in profits from seniors who are essentially forced to purchase catastrophic coverage to stave off health-induced financial disaster. One reason that seniors must purchase Medi-gap insurance in the first place is the AARP.

The AARP has a major conflict of interest with respect to Medicare.

The AARP was sharply criticized several years ago as selling out older Americans when it supported Obamacare, which cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for its $1.9 trillion expansion of coverage to low-income Americans. Not coincidentally, the AARP obtained the equivalent of a waiver in the new law when Obama abandoned reforms that would have saved seniors hundreds of dollars in Medi-gap premiums a year.

Clearly, the AARP is not a disinterested party in the debate over the future of Medicare but it is, unfortunately, the elephant in the room by virtue of its 38 million members, many of whom joined to take advantage of AARP licensing deals that purportedly give members a small discount on hotels, car rentals, etc.

On its web site, the AARP states reassuringly that it has launched a “national campaign to fight proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher system.” But what does that really mean? No vouchers unless the AARP gets its cut?

Laura Polacheck, the communications director of the AARP Utah, on Feb. 1 issued a press release condemning  House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal to privatize the government-run health program for people with disabilities and those aged 65 and older. Polacheck says AARP staff and volunteers will remind members of Congress that Ryan’s proposal would put more than 300,000 Utah seniors’ benefits at risk, as well as the benefits of over 400,000 workers who are set to transition to Medicare over the next 15 years.

That’s all fine and good but older Americans would be wise to demand transparency from the AARP. What does the AARP have to gain and what do older Americans have to lose?

After an investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy, the AARP last year was pressured into dropping its membership in the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization affiliated with the Koch brothers that drafts and promotes bills that would undermine and privatize Social Security and Medicare. The AARP, a “trustee level” sponsor of ALEC’s 2016 annual meeting, claimed it was merely taking advantage of ” an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities.”

I have long bemoaned the absence of a true advocacy group for older America, such as the DaneAge Association in Denmark.

The AARP has done virtually nothing for 50 years to combat the legal inequality of older Americans in the workplace. Apparently, the AARP has no marketing incentive to pay more than lip service to this issue.

DaneAge is an independent, non-profit national membership organization founded in 1986 to provide advocacy “through an ongoing dialogue with the government and the public, promoting a society without age barriers and ageism.”  DaneAge has 690,000 members in 217 local chapters across Denmark, including 15,775 volunteers who engage in local advocacy. Among other things, the organization, which has approximately 100 staff members,  provides “free-of-charge and impartial legal advice and counsel” by lawyers and other professionals.

Denmark is widely regarded as having the highest quality of life  for its citizens in the world.

Half Century of Inequality: Age Discrimination in Employment Act

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Public Law 90-202, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), enacted on December 15, 1967.

But there is little to celebrate.

For 50 years, America’s older workers have been denied equal protection from unfounded and harmful discrimination in employment.

 Federal law today not only fails to protect older workers but effectively allows employers to drive older workers out of well-paying jobs in their 40s and 50s and then out of the workforce altogether in their 60s. This has led to unemployment, underemployment and poverty in old age for many older Americans, especially for women. 

The ADEA is the frail stepsister of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which was passed three years earlier to protect job applicants, employees and union members from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin and religion. Age was proposed for inclusion in Title VII but was omitted when Congress decided more study was needed about the nature of the problem. 

As I explain in my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, the law finally passed by Congress to address age discrimination in employment was far weaker than Title VII.  The ADEA both prohibits and legalizes age discrimination. 

Congress gave mere lip service to prohibiting age discrimination. The substantive part of the ADEA was patterned after Title VII but the ADEA includes gaping loopholes, such as permitting “reasonable” discrimination against older workers and allowing mandatory retirement of public safety workers, state elected officials and high-placed business executives.

Unlike Title VII, the damages part of Title VII is patterned after the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, a federal law that regulates the payment of minimum wages and overtime. As a result, victims of age discrimination in employment are treated as if they were shorted on their paycheck and not as workers who suffered grievous and long-lasting injury. The ADEA does not permit a court to order an employer to pay punitive or compensatory damages to an age discrimination victim. The most a victim can recover is twice the amount of monetary loss suffered (if no monetary loss was suffered, the victim and his/her attorney  get nothing).

If that wasn’t bad enough, the gap between the ADEA and Title VII has grown much wider over the years as a result of misguided decisions by pro-business federal courts.  It is now much more difficult to prevail in an ADEA case than a Title VII case. One appeals court has even ruled that job applicants aged 40 and above are completely without protection from discrimination on the basis of age.

In addition, the Obama administration made the situation much worse when he signed an executive order that permits age discrimination by federal agencies.

A new year marks a new beginning.

One can hope the Trump administration will reverse President Obama’s discriminatory executive order permitting age discrimination by federal agencies.

One can hope the U.S. Congress and the federal courts will – at the very least – take steps to insure that older workers receive the same rights and protections as other discrimination victims. If repeal of the ADEA is not possible this year, Congress should at least pass the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, first proposed more than a decade ago. The POWADA would reverse a particularly disastrous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.

Hope, of course, is an unreliable vehicle for change. We must demand action. Action is long overdue.

What About Social Security? Topic Mostly Ignored in Pres. Election

puzzlepieceThere has been surprisingly little discussion about the future of Social Security in the ongoing presidential election campaign, leaving questions about what the candidates will actually do if elected.

Democrat Hillary Clinton’s position seems to depend upon her audience:

  • “I won’t cut Social Security. … I’ll defend it, and I’ll expand it.” www.hillaryclinton.com, February 5, 2016.
  • “In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks.” The New York TImes, Leaked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at East with Wall Street, Oct. 7, 2016.

Republican Donald Trump’s position is vague. He seems to promise not to cut Social Security for existing recipients but certainly does not commit himself to expansion of the program.

  • “I’m going to save Social Security. You have tremendous waste, fraud and abuse. We have in Social Security thousands of people over 106 years old. You know they don’t exist. There’s tremendous waste, fraud and abuse, and we’re going to get it. But we’re not going to hurt the people who have been paying into Social Security their whole life and then all of a sudden they’re supposed to get less. We’re bringing jobs back.”  Source: 2016 CBS Republican primary debate in South Carolina, Feb 13, 2016

The fate of Social Security is vital to 40 million retired Americans, including 21% of married couples and about 43% of unmarried persons who rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

Of course, what politicians promise during the election season is not always what they deliver. President Barack Obama promised the following and then did the reverse:

  • “Obama will fight job discrimination for aging employees by strengthening the Age Discrimination in Employment Act … .”  Source: Blueprint for Change (2008).

Two years later, President Obama signed an executive order that carves out an exception to the ADEA that permits the nation’s largest employer, the federal government, to discriminate on the basis of age in hiring for federal jobs. This was done in plain sight but there was no protest – nor indeed any comment – from the AARP, which is busy mining its treasure trove of older members through the sales of Medigap health insurance and licensing agreements. And Obama’s administration has ignored the epidemic of age discrimination in hiring that has forced millions of older workers out of the workplace and into an uncertain and ill-advised retirement.

Would Trump Halt Age Discrimination by Feds?

TrumpIn his address to the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, GOP Presidential hopeful Donald Trump said something that could have tremendous impact on the problem of age discrimination in employment.

He promised to immediately cancel all of President Barack Obama’s “illegal and overreaching executive orders.”

Older workers have been subject to blatant age discrimination in hiring by our nation’s largest employer, the U.S. government, since President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2010 that essentially created an exemption to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) for federal agencies.

President Obama’s order allows federal agencies to bypass older workers and hire “recent graduates.” The ADEA unambiguously states that it is unlawful for any employer “to fail or refuse to hire” any individual “because of such individual’s age.” Obama’s order has a disparate impact upon older workers because the vast majority of recent graduates are under age 30.

Paradoxically, President Obama claimed that merit-based civil service rules put the federal government at a “competitive disadvantage compared to private-sector employers when it comes to hiring qualified applicants for entry-level positions.” The point of civil service regulations is, of course, to hire the best qualified applicant. Obama’s order enables federal agencies to hire young applicants with fewer qualifications than older applicants. Continue reading “Would Trump Halt Age Discrimination by Feds?”

W.H. Aging Conf. Goes Out with a Whimper

The 2015 White House Conference on Aging released its final report Tuesday without mentioning rampant age discrimination in employment or the financial plight of older Americans caused by the collapse of Wall Street.

Celia Munoz, director of the Obama administration’s Domestic Policy Council,  congratulated the Obama administration for accomplishing a “great deal” while recognizing there is still much more work to do.  Munoz  assures us that a “better informed vision for aging in America” emerged from the Conference.

To some, the conference was a disappointing public relations event. The Obama administration partnered with the AARP, which actually organized regional events. The AARP is the nation’s leading purveyor of Medi-gap health insurance to older adults. Not surprisingly, a major theme of the Conference was healthy aging.

Conference organizers completely ignored repeated pleas to examine the link between elder poverty, the on-going epidemic of age discrimination in hiring and the disappearance of defined benefit pensions.

Some of the Conference’s highly-touted initiatives come far too late to help older adults today. For example, Obama proposed a portable retirement account that workers can take from job to job and  a law requiring financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests.

An alarming percentage of America’s older adults today literally have no money, having lost jobs, homes and savings in the financial meltdown.

The Social Security Administration estimates the average Social Security benefit is $13,000 a year, from which Medicare payments are then deducted.  For 36 percent of recipients, Social Security provides 90 percent or more of their income.  For 24 percent of recipients, it is the sole source of retirement income.

The White House has held a Conference on Aging every decade since 1961. The 2015 Conference was a shell of its predecessors because, according to the administration, Congress failed to allocate sufficient funds for the event. In the past,  delegates from around the country converged in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to  improve the quality of life of older Americans.

It seems more likely that the plight of older adults is simply not a priority for either Congress or the Obama administration.

There’s always 2025?