MLK, the EEOC & Age Discrimination

MLKIt’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”

Supreme Court Again Ignores Legal Inequality of Older Workers

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to resolve a federal circuit split on the question of whether plaintiffs suing for age discrimination or retaliation can recover punitive damages and  damages for pain and suffering.

The  Court denied certiorari in a case filed by Susan  L. Vaughan, 54, a former nurse supervisor who sued Anderson Regional Medical Center in Mississippi for wrongful termination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

At the hospital’s request, a federal judge dismissed Vaughan’s claim for compensatory and punitive damages for retaliatory discharge. Currently age discrimination victims are limited to monetary loss only .

The issue harkens back to Congress’ decision in 1964 to exclude age as a protected class in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, color and national origin. Title VII’s plaintiffs are entitled to seek compensatory and punitive damages.

When Congress passed the ADEA, it incorporated the damages provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into the ADEA..  The FLSA, a federal law that regulates the payment of overtime and minimum wage, limits damages to monetary loss only. Continue reading “Supreme Court Again Ignores Legal Inequality of Older Workers”