THE AARP’S ROLE IN WHITE HOUSE CONF. ON AGING

What is the White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) … Really.

Is it a serious examination of the problems facing older Americans that occurs once every decade, or is it a public relations opportunity?

At its fourth regional forum on Monday, the WHCOA held a panel discussion on retirement security that featured a panel of  bureaucrats who failed to even mention age discrimination. That’s like talking about California’s drought without mentioning climate change. A spokesperson for the Obama administration promised the President would protect Social Security and said the administration is working to make the process of retirement savings easier and more transparent. No one is asking why so many older Americans  are poor and struggling

Numerous attempts in recent months to contact Nora Super, executive director of the WHCOA, to urge her to address employment discrimination based on age have failed to elicit any response whatsoever. Why does the WHCOA seems to be focusing upon soft issues like “healthy aging.”

On its web site, the AARP says it is “co-sponsoring” and “co-planning” the WHCOA’s regional forums, along with a lobbying group called Leadership Council of Aging (LCAO), which describes itself as a coalition of 72 of the nation’s leading organizations serving older Americans. The contact person for “all questions” regarding the LCAO is Nicholas Barracca at LCAO@aarp.org. I emailed that address on Monday and received an unsigned reply stating that the AARP is the “current chair organization” of the LCAO, which rotates chairs each year among five different organizations. I inquired again about the LCAO’s source of funding and Barracca replied that the LCAO is funded through membership dues.

At some point, it is fair to ask whether there is a conflict of interest with respect to the AARP’s dominating role in the WHOA forums.

Continue reading “THE AARP’S ROLE IN WHITE HOUSE CONF. ON AGING”

GOOGLE HIT WITH CLASS ACTION AGE DISCRIM. LAWSUIT

Silicon Valley has been an unapologetic apartheid state for young workers for years but this could be about to change.

A class action age discrimination lawsuit was filed against Google, Inc. on April 22 by software engineer Robert Heath who was interviewed but not hired for a position at Google in 2011 when he was 60-years-of-age. The lawsuit alleges Google has demonstrated a pattern and practice of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to the lawsuit, Google’s workforce is “grossly disproportionate” with respect to age. The lawsuit asserts the median age of the 28,000 employees who worked for Google in 2013 was 29.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor reports the median age for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6. According to the lawsuit, Google had 53,000 employees in 2014 and revenues of approximately $66 billion.

Google’s position with respect to age discrimination is completely inexplicable. The company last year made a public commitment to increase race and gender diversity in its workforce, and released workforce statistics relating to those characteristics. But Google was completely silent with respect to  age and did not release age-related statistics. It was as if Google’s position was that age is not a factor in workforce diversity.

Continue reading “GOOGLE HIT WITH CLASS ACTION AGE DISCRIM. LAWSUIT”

NEW BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: STOP AGE DISCRIMINATION

It is one thing to restrict participation in a youth soccer league to youth but what justification exists for restricting participation in an intellectual challenge on the basis of age?

Next City, a non-profit organization that receives funding from some ofAmerica’s major foundations, is hosting a gathering on May 6-7 in my city of residence, Reno, Nevada, that will feature “the top urban innovators, 40 years old and younger, working to make change in cities.”   According to the press release, Next City’s annual Vanguard Conference is “a chance for the brightest urban thinkers from the America’s to prototype a design intervention that, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere.”  The conference,“Big Idea Challenge, Reno 2015,” is being co-sponsored by the city of Reno.

You don’t have to be a bright urban thinker to recognize that this kind of event sends a negative message to people who are aged 41 and older. They are made to feel like “other,” “lesser” and “yesterday.”  Why? There is no evidence that America’s brightest urban thinkers are aged 40 and under. Continue reading “NEW BIG IDEA CHALLENGE: STOP AGE DISCRIMINATION”

AGE TAKES THE LEAD AS A NEGATIVE IN POLITICS

An interesting societal shift seems to have pushed age (70 and above) into the undesirable position of  the most negative characteristic for a political candidate.

A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 55 percent of Americans said it would make no difference to them if the candidate was in his or her 70s. But 66 percent of Americans  said it would make no difference to them if a candidate was gay or lesbian and 71 percent  said it would make no difference if the candidate were female.  Thus, it  makes more difference to the public if candidates are in their 70s than if they are gay or lesbian or female.

At the same time, 36 percent of those polled said it was less likely that they would support a candidate in their 70s, compared to 27 percent who would be less likely to support candidates who are gay or lesbian and nine percent who are less likely to support female candidates.  So more Americans – of all ages – are less willing to vote for politicians in their 70s than they are for gay and lesbian and female candidates. Continue reading “AGE TAKES THE LEAD AS A NEGATIVE IN POLITICS”

MARCO RUBIO’S DIVISIVE GENERATIONAL POLITICS

Senator  Marco Rubio, the 43-year-old Republican from Florida, began his campaign for the American presidency this week with a calculated and divisive generational attack.

He implies that America’s 77 million baby boomers are “yesterday” and states the time has come for a new generation to lead America.

In his campaign launch speech, Rubio stated:

  • “Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century … “
  • “This election … is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be ….”:
  • “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

Can you imagine Hilary Clinton, 67, or Jeb Bush, 62, starting their  presidential campaigns by alienating younger generations and encouraging Americans to vote for them on the basis of age?  Such is the nature of age discrimination, and Rubio knows it. Continue reading “MARCO RUBIO’S DIVISIVE GENERATIONAL POLITICS”

OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!

The White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA) issued its first “policy brief” Friday afternoon, addressing the issue of  “healthy aging.”

Get ready for news of a truly momentous policy announcement –  The Conference is urging a “shift in the way we think and talk about aging. Rather than focusing on the limitations of aging, older adults across the nation want to focus instead on the opportunities of aging.”  Oh, and older adults should get physical activity, good nutrition and good medical care.

No, this is not an April fools joke.  With all of the problems facing older Americans, the Obama administration essentially wants us all to think happy thoughts.

Meanwhile, the WHCOA  has completely ignored calls to address the problem of age discrimination in employment, which, among other things, condemns older workers to a retirement of poverty or near poverty.

According to a 2013 study by Economic Policy Institute,  nearly half (48.0 percent) of the elderly population is “economically vulnerable,” defined as having an income that is less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. This equates to roughly 19.9 million economically vulnerable seniors. Women and minorities have far higher rates of economic vulnerability. Continue reading “OBAMA’S POLICY ON AGING – BE POSITIVE!”

THE AARP: SURVEYS BUT NO SOLUTIONS

The AARP has been conducting surveys for years showing the existence of epidemic age discrimination in the American workplace and it released yet another one on Monday.

But the AARP seems unwilling to take a position on why the problem of unemployment and under-employment exists for older workers and what to do about it. Although the AARP markets itself as the nation’s leading advocate for Americans age 50 and older, it’s advocacy on this issue has been virtually non-existent. One can’t help but wonder if the AARP’s reticence reflects greater concern for its $3 billion a year profit-making enterprise selling health and travel insurance to retirees than the plight of older workers.

In my recent book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I indisputably show that older workers have virtually no protection against age discrimination in the workplace. This is a problem that has been getting worse for fifty years. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was weak to begin with and has been eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court.  I propose repealing the ADEA and making age a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to insure that older workers receive the same level of protection as workers who are subject to illegal discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin and religion. All employment discrimination is based on irrational animus and unfounded stereotypes. There is absolutely no justification for treating older workers differently and, in fact, it is completely contrary to the bedrock principle of U.S. Constitutional that insures all Americans receive equal justice under the law.

Why isn’t the AARP lobbying Congress to provide equal justice for older workers? The AARP surveys generate a lot of wonderful free publicity for the AARP, which makes it appear that the AARP is actually doing something. But the reality is that no one is doing anything about the problem of age discrimination in the workplace, which reached crisis proportions during the Great Recession and is still wreaking havoc on older workers lives. Even the White House Conference on Aging refuses to acknowledge the issue, preferring instead to partner with t he AARP to address “healthy aging.” Continue reading “THE AARP: SURVEYS BUT NO SOLUTIONS”

TEXAS ROADHOUSE GOES TO CONGRESS

It all comes back to Hooters.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that Hooters’ policy of not hiring males to be servers constituted sex discrimination. Hooters launched a “public awareness campaign” asking customers to complain to the U.S. Congress. The EEOC backed down, citing budgetary limitations.  In other words, Hooters’ thwarted the EEOC’s efforts to battle irrational and illegal discrimination in the workplace without even having to go to court.

Now the Kentucky-based restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse is following Hooters’ example. It is facing a 2011 lawsuit filed by the EEOC that alleges the company does not hire workers over the age of 40 for “front of the house” positions. Texas Roadhouse apparently is concerned that it might actually lose in court (though, God knows why) so it has taken its battle to the U.S. Congress, where it has succeeded in marshaling the support of prominent Republicans.

According to EEOC documents, Texas Roadhouse managers were not subtle when they turned away older applicants. They made comments like:

  •  “We think you are a little too old to work here … We like younger people.”
  • “We’re hiring for greeters, but we need the young, hot ones who are chipper and stuff.”
  • “You seem older to be applying for this job.”

And the EEOC is not exactly aggressive when it comes to age discrimination. It received 20,588 complaints of age discrimination in 2014, which was about 23 percent of all claims it received.  It filed 12 lawsuits in 2014 with age discrimination claims, which was about 7 percent of all of the lawsuits it filed.  Of course, in most cases, age discrimination was just one of several claims.

Still, outraged Republicans on the House Education and Workforce Committee say they are looking into why the EEOC investigates companies in the absence of a specific complaint – companies like Texas Road House! Continue reading “TEXAS ROADHOUSE GOES TO CONGRESS”

WAS AGE BIAS BEHIND TRADER JOE’S “REORGANIZATION”?

A class-action lawsuit alleges that Trader Joe’s implemented a company-wide “reorganization” plan last year to drive out older workers.

According to the complaint,  a company-wide reorganization by Trader Joe’s, the grocery store chain for affluent yuppies, resulted in the systematic demotion of employees over the age of 45 in violation of the U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The suit was brought by Keith Garlough, 49, an eight-year veteran employee of a California Trade Joe’s store, who was demoted from the position of “merchant,” which is one rung below assistant store manager,  to an entry-level crew position.  He states he suffered an $8.50 per hour loss in pay, a reduction in hours and was no longer eligible for bonuses and overtime pay. He also incurred greater health insurance costs and received fewer health benefits, less vacation and leave pay, and diminished retirement contributions.

I note in my new book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, that it is a common practice  for employers to use the device of a “restructuring” or “business reorganization” to eliminate or demote older workers. There hasn’t been much litigation over the practice because age discrimination is treated like a second-class offense in U.S. federal courts.  If these cases aren’t immediately dismissed, federal judges permit employers to avoid accountability by dragging out these cases for years. In one major case at least two older workers died  while their age discrimination case was permitted to languish for ten years until it was dismissed!

In addition to the ADEA, the complaint alleges Trader Joe’s  company-wide policy violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and California’s competition law.

The case is Garlough v. Trader Jos’s Co., # 3:15-cv-01278 and was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Trader Joe’s has more than 200 stores in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45

While the U.S. continues to ignore the on-going epidemic of age discrimination here, a new report in the United Kingdom posits that ageism and sexism combine to effectively end women’s careers at the age of 45.

Men continue to progress until around age 55, when they are written off by employers  as being “past it.”

These are some of the results of a major report by economist Ros Altmann, who was appointed last year by the United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions Minister to serve as the U.K.’s  Business Champion for Older Workers.

Altmann told the British Daily Mail and Independent newspapers that senior human resource professionals report that women’s career progression in most companies stops around the age of 45.  She said that nearly half the growth in female employment since the recession has been in low-paid, part-time work, mainly  clerical, caring and cleaning work.  Here are some other findings:

  • Older workers with young bosses tend to face the worst age discrimination.
  • Employers wrongly assume that older workers are less familiar with computer technology and are unable to learn.
  • Women face an extra layer of discrimination because employers want young, female staff who “look a certain way.”

Altmann recommends the government threaten  job recruitment firms with penalties unless they do more to prevent age discrimination. She said all job advertisements should clearly state the application is open to everyone regardless of age. She also recommends a national “confidence” campaign for discouraged older workers and proposed that companies offer “mature” apprentice programs.

The U.S. Slumbers on … 

The U.K. initiative stands in sharp contrast to the almost complete lack of action in the United States to combat blatant and epidemic age discrimination in the workplace. Continue reading “REPORT: MOST WOMEN’S CAREERS DIE AT 45”