#OscarsSoYoung: Where’s the Transparency?

cbisaacsCheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, claims the move to strip away the voting rights of the oldest members of the Academy is not discriminatory.

Boone Isaacs told The Hollywood Reporter:

“I just don’t understand it. That’s been a frustrating thing for me, this concept of, ‘We’re moving people out in order to move people in.’  That’s just not true … Our oldest new member is 90 or 91, so it’s not about age at all.”

In the civil rights context, Boone Isaacs comment is laughable. Inviting one individual who is 90 or 91 to join the Academy signifies nothing. And it is unlikely that Boone Isaacs would accept this lame explanation from another group that was charged with unfairly targeting women or minorities.

In any case, if what Boone Isaacs is saying is true, the Academy can easily resolve this matter. The Academy can disclose the number of members who are being stripped of their voting rights, along with their ages.  This request is not unreasonable. It is a matter of simple transparency. And I can assure her that this information will be disclosed if the Academy is actually sued for age discrimination.

Although Boone Isaacs professes confusion, age discrimination is not really hard to understand. It occurs when an institution adopts a policy or rule that disproportionately and adversely affects individuals who are over the age of 40.

The Academy earlier announced that 683 new members were invited into the Academy this year, of whom 46% are female and 41% are people of color. The Academy might actually have gotten kudos for this if it had stopped there. There is an obvious need for greater diversity in the Academy. A 2014 survey by the Los Angeles Times of the 6,028 Academy Award voters found that the population is 76 percent men with an average age of 63.  But, stupidly, the Academy did not stop there.

Age discrimination is not the solution to lack of racial or gender diversity. lt pits groups that  historically have suffered from irrational bias against each other. It is contrary to America’s founding principle of equal justice for all. It damages people, fostering deep resentment and anger, just like race and sex discrimination.

According to Boone Isaacs, it is the Academy’s goal to “increase our inclusion by 50 percent” by 2020. “Gender and race. It’s a big goal — that is for sure. But if you don’t set a big goal, what is the point?” she said.

The point, Ms. Boone Isaacs, is not achieving diversity by any means but achieving diversity in a positive manner without damaging the lives of loyal members, some near the end of their lives, and fracturing the organization itself.

Why Doesn’t Age Discrimination Count in U.S.?

At the end of the month, most employers with more than 100 employees are required file a form with the EEOC revealing diversity and job category information about the race/ethnicity and gender of their workforce.

But companies are nUnemployment Benefitsot required to tell the EEOC anything about the age of their workers.

The EEOC lacks the type of critical data about age that it collects and uses to prevent and hold employers accountable for race or sex discrimination.

 This is yet another way that age discrimination is ignored and rendered invisible in the United State.

According to the EEOC, the information from Equal Employment Opportunity – 1 Reports (EEO-1) is used to:

  • “… support civil rights enforcement and to analyze employment patterns, such as the representation of female and minority workers within companies, industries or regions.”; and
  • “…to determine which company establishments to select for compliance reviews.”

Employers must provide statistics with respect to the number of minorities and women in their workforce and in what capacity they work. This is significant because it puts informal pressure on employers to hire minorities and women for “careers” rather than jobs.

For obvious reasons, employers are loathe to tell the EEOC that 16 of a company’s 17 African-American employees work the janitorial pool or 39 of the firm’s 40 female employees are secretaries or administrative assistants. It looks bad. This provides an incentive for  employers to actually recruit and hire minorities and females for professional “career” positions. Continue reading “Why Doesn’t Age Discrimination Count in U.S.?”

Raise the “Minimum Wage” (Social Security) for Older Americans

poor-old-ladyThere’s been a lot of outrage about the plight of Americans who are poor despite working full-time jobs – even a movement to raise the minimum wage.

But what about  the 20 million Americans over the age of 65 who worked a lifetime only to be forced to spend their remaining years in poverty or near  poverty conditions?  The national debate around Social Security ignores the plight of older Americans and focuses on ways to cut Social Security and Medicare by raising the age of eligibility, means testing, etc.

Why the disconnect?

For one thing, the campaign to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers is funded by unions. Millions of economically vulnerable older Americans were involuntarily pushed out of the workforce by epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination or ill-health. They have no union and, apparently, no other effective advocate.

Another reason is that elder poverty is poorly understood . The federal government’s official poverty rate for older Americans – like the U.S. unemployment rate and the Social Security benefit formula –   is outdated and misrepresents reality. The official poverty rate was created by the Census Bureau in the 1960s and looks only at a family or individual’s cash income. In 2010, the  Bureau was forced to create an alternative measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), that provides a more realistic picture. The SPM reflects not only available financial resources but liabilities (taxes, out-of-pocket medial spending, housing expenses and other factors) and cost of living differences between states. However, the SPM still is not the “official” measure that is widely cited by politicians and policy makers. So many Americans do not have a realistic picture of true elder poverty.

The official poverty rate for older Americans is a fictional measure perpetuated by a moribund federal bureaucracy that is stuck somewhere in the 1960s.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently did an analysis comparing the Census Bureau’s official poverty rate and the SPM poverty rate for Americans aged 65 and above. The Foundation reports the poverty rate among older adults is higher under the SPM (15%) than under the official measure (10%) because the SPM deducts out-of-pocket medical expenses from income when estimating the share of people living in poverty. Continue reading “Raise the “Minimum Wage” (Social Security) for Older Americans”

Social Security Penalizes the Poor & Rewards the Rich

inequality I went to a restaurant recently where a server, a man who appeared to be in his late 60s, had obvious hearing problems despite wearing a hearing aid.  We had to repeat our food order and he forgot my wine (or perhaps never heard me order it).  It made me think about the pressure that older workers are under to remain in the workplace as a result of the Social Security Administration’s discriminatory benefits formula.

The formula is rigged to benefit those who stay in the workplace the longest. If workers retire at age 62 – the earliest possible age –  they suffer a 33 percent loss in their monthly benefit for the rest of their lives compared to workers who wait until age 66.  If workers can hold out and retire at age 70 – the oldest retirement age in the formula – they will receive a benefit that is 75 percent higher than if they had retired at age 62.

The problem is that many, if not most, older workers have little real choice about whether they will remain in the workforce.

Voya Financial, Inc. recently released findings from a poll  of 1,002 recent retirees that found 60 percent had to stop working unexpectedly. Thirty-three percent said they left their jobs involuntarily. Of this group, 16 percent had to retire because of health challenges, 11 percent lost their jobs, three percent had to stop working because they had to care for a spouse or dependent, and an additional three percent retired involuntarily because of their age.

Once an older worker is jobless, the chance that he or she will find new employment is almost nil due to epidemic, blatant and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring. These jobless older workers are forced to spend down their savings and work in low-paid part-time and temp jobs until they age into a financially ill-advised early “retirement.”   The AARP reported in February that older job seekers represented 24 percent of the unemployed in March 2013 but 31 percent of the long-term unemployed. The AARP cited one study showing that only about one in nine long-term unemployed workers had steady full-time jobs 12 months later. Older non-Hispanic blacks had the highest rate of long-term unemployment (57 percent), followed by Hispanics  (53 percent) and whites (47 percent). How ironic that these Americans are subjected to discrimination a second time –  by the Social Security Administration!

The Social Security benefits formula penalizes the poor.

Continue reading “Social Security Penalizes the Poor & Rewards the Rich”

Media Silence and Age Discrimination

One reason there is so little media attention to the problem of age discrimination is that the media is part of the problem.

NYTWhy is the media so oblivious to what almost anyone can see is blatant and systemic age discrimination in employment in the United States?

Could it be because media companies are employers too?

The New York Times Co. and its chief executive officer recently were sued  by a former ad executive for “age, gender and race” discrimination.  Tracy Quitasol, 51, said she was let go in January 2014  by her new boss, Meredith Levien, the chief revenue officer of the NTY Co.  An Asian-American, Quitasol was the head of the Times’ Idea Lab, which formulates new digital advertising programs, and the executive director of product marketing and ad platform innovations.

The Times contends that Quitasol was fired for cause and that it will vigorously defend the lawsuit..

Quitasol alleges in the lawsuit that the Times conducted a downsizing in 2013 that resulted in the layoff of  30 employees who were mostly older, minority group members.  In almost every case, she alleges, the employees were replaced with white employees under the age of 40.

The lawsuit states that during “two off-site meetings attended by all the advertising vice presidents, HR officials and Quitasol in September 2013, Levien said she would evaluate employees on whether they were ‘fresh to their career’ and ‘whether they have a family, what’s their situation.’”  Photographs of  staff members were displayed on a screen and, Quitasol alleges, Levien repeatedly said, ‘We want people to look like the people we are selling to” and asked questions clearly intended to determine the staffer’s “age, marital status and whether they had a family.”

Of course, the New York Times is not the only media outlet that faces accusations of age discrimination.

Continue reading “Media Silence and Age Discrimination”

Age Discrimination in Employment Equals Elder Poverty

Feeding AmericaFeeding America recently reported that 68 percent of older adult  (50+) households live in poverty based on their annual income.

The organization issued a report, Baby Boomers and Beyond: Facing Hunger After Fifty, stating that lack of employment, housing instability, poor health and unpaid medical bills are among the top challenges facing older Americans.

According to the report, pre-seniors between the ages of 50 and 64,  may be particularly vulnerable as they are not yet of retirement age and thus ineligible for safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Data such as this puts the problem of age discrimination in employment in context,  Older workers are forced out of the job market by legalized age discrimination, and then cannot find decent new employment because of epidemic, blatant and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring.  The result is hunger, homelessness,  ill health as a result of skipped medical visits and unfilled prescriptions …  poverty.

Problem Made Worse by Obama Administration

In an understatement, Matt Knott, president of feeding America, a nationwide organization of 200 food banks, states: “Every day for the next 15 years, 10,000 people will turn 65. This is absolutely the right time to be taking a hard look at the data to determine the challenges our mature clients face.”

Not only has the federal government ignored age discrimination and its ensuing problems, but the problems arguably have worsened significantly under the administration of President Barack Obama. Continue reading “Age Discrimination in Employment Equals Elder Poverty”

Wrong Diagnosis by American Medical Assn?

The American Medical Association has plunged headlong into the controversy about age discrimination in the medical profession by adopting a plan to develop criteria to review “”Senior/Late Career”  doctors’ physical and mental health and patient care.

At its annual meeting last month, the AMA unanimously adopted a plan to spearhead an effort to evaluate elder healthcare providers’ on-the-job effectiveness. The plan was proposed by the AMA’s Council on Medical Education.

The action comes on the heels of a dispute at Stanford University, where the Faculty Senate in May demanded repeal of a 2013 requirement that medical faculty aged 75 and older undergo enhanced health screening and peer assessment to retain their jobs.

Like Stanford University, the AMA fails to provide any research or evidence whatsoever explaining why it is necessary to screen “senior” physicians.

The AMA policy states that it will “identify organizations that should participate in the development of guidelines and methods of screening and assessment to assure that senior/late career physicians remain able to provide safe and effective care for patients.” These organizations must then  “work together to develop preliminary guidelines for assessment of the senior/late career physician and develop a research agenda that could guide those interested in this field and serve as the basis for guidelines more grounded in research findings.”

Apparently, the AMA has decided there is a need for a plan and will now develop the research necessary to support that conclusion.

In the absence of any evidence that a plan is even necessary, one cannot help but speculate that ageist stereotypes against older workers have played a role in the AMA’s decision-making. These stereotypes include unsupported concerns that older workers are less competent, can’t learn new things, are rigid and quarrelsome, and refuse to accept they should step down and make room for younger doctors.. Continue reading “Wrong Diagnosis by American Medical Assn?”

At the Intersection of Age and Sex Discrimination: Social Security

.According to the Social Security Administration, a much higher percentage of women who are aged 65 and older live in poverty or near poverty than do males who are aged 65 and older. The median income of individual males aged 65 and older was $29,327 in 2013 compared to $16,301 for individual females. Median means half earned more and half earned less

Bernie

When candidates for the U.S. Presidency talk about cutting Social Security benefits, a lot of women worry. That’s because women suffer from the cumulative negative impact of sex and age discrimination.

.According to the Social Security Administration, a much higher percentage of women who are aged 65 and older live in poverty or near poverty than do men who are aged 65 and older. The median income of individual males aged 65 and older was $29,327 in 2013 compared to $16,301 for individual females. Median means that half had a higher income and half had a lower income.

Women suffer discrimination all of their working lives, starting with a pay disparity in their first jobs that persists throughout their careers. Women suffer from pregnancy discrimination and the failure of the American workplace to accommodate the disproportionate burdens place upon women with children. Finally, women suffer age discrimination at least a decade before many men experience the problem.

The National Women’s Law Center reports that without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would be poor.

In a 2013 study, the National Women’s Law Center found that nearly 2.9 million women aged 65 and older live in poverty compared to 1.3 million men. The poverty rate for older women was 12 percent, compared to 7 percent for older men. That’s almost twice as many women living in poverty than men! Poverty rates were particularly high for older women who are black (20 percent), Hispanic (23 percent) and Native American (21 percent).

So it has not been easy to read  a bevy of white male GOP presidential candidates  call for cutting Social Security as have Sen. Lindsey Graham and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  They don’t even bother to address the degree to which American women in particular are forced to rely upon these exceedingly modest benefits just to survive. Continue reading “At the Intersection of Age and Sex Discrimination: Social Security”

IMPORTANT RULING ON MOTIVE & AGE DISCRIMINATION

Here’s a rare  and important victory in a federal age discrimination case involving a Minnesota city’s failure to promote a 51-year-old police lieutenant to the position of chief of police because he was “retirement eligible.”

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Minneapolis rejected the City’s theory that its action were not-discriminatory because its motive was to hire a long-term police chief.  The City relied upon a theory expounded by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 that it is not age discrimination if  an employer is motivated by a reason that is related to but “analytically distinct” from age discrimination (i.e. salary or pension status).

“On the facts here,” the appeals court ruled, “retirement eligibility is always correlated with age because it is dependent on the employee reaching 50; it cannot be ‘divorced from age.’”  Moreover, the  panel said that assuming a candidate is “uncommitted to a position because his age made him retirement-eligible is age-stereotyping that the ADEA prohibits.”

Continue reading “IMPORTANT RULING ON MOTIVE & AGE DISCRIMINATION”