*NOTE: The EEOC issued a report at its meeting (discussed below) that completely ignored age discrimination except for a footnote stating that more research on age discrimination is needed. According to the report, compared to overall private industry, the high tech sector employed a larger share of whites (63.5 percent to 68.5 percent), Asian Americans (5.8 percent to 14 percent) and men (52 percent to 64 percent), and a smaller share of African Americans (14.4 percent to 7.4 percent), Hispanics (13.9 percent to 8 percent), and women (48 percent to 36 percent). WHAT ABOUT AGE? Ed.
After more than a decade of ignoring rampant and blatant age discrimination in the tech industry (and everywhere else), the issue appears has surfaced on the EEOC’s radar screen. But it is not seen as an overly-ripe target for enforcement of older workers civil rights. Rather, it is couched as an “innovation opportunity.”
The EEOC has announced it will hold a meeting in Washington, DC, on Wednesday entitled, “Innovation Opportunity: Examining Strategies to Promote Diverse and Inclusive Workplaces in the Tech Industry.”
While it might be hoped the EEOC would actually enforce the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Agency deserves credit for acknowledging that age is a diversity issue, which is something that Silicon Valley stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. Also, the EEOC deserves major kudos given that the Obama administration for the past eight years, has treated older workers like an obstacle to diversity and not a group that deserves equal rights under the law.
One of the invited panelists for Wednesday’s meeting is an attorney from the AARP Foundation, which is an organization that the EEOC apparently entrusts to be polite about the EEOC’s regulatory lapses during the past decade. The AARP Foundation almost has to be polite because it’s mothership is the the monolithic AARP, which also has done little to advocate for older workers by combating age discrimination. Moreover, the AARP is reaping billions from the sale of Medigap health insurance after having lobbied to keep Medigap reforms out of Obamacare. The AARP receives an estimated 4.95 percent of every dollar that seniors spend on its Medigap plans. These fees are reportedly double the income the AARP receives from “membership:” dues. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Medigap reforms blocked by the AARP would have saved the average senior as much as $415 in premiums per year.
It is perhaps not surprising that my name does not appear on the EEOC’s guest list.
My groundbreaking 2014 book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, criticizes the systemic inequality of older workers in American society, especially in Silicon Valley. I note that the ADEA was weak to begin with and then was further eviscerated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Congress has done nothing to insure equal rights for older workers. I also criticize the EEOC for failing to combat an massive increase in age discrimination complaints since 1998 and I point out that President Barack Obama signed a devastating executive order in 2010 that actually legalizes age discrimination in federal hiring.
I may be alone in the U.S. in reporting that the EEOC itself stands accused of engaging in systemic age discrimination in hiring
Earlier this year I reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a friend-of-the-court brief in an age discrimination case in which it defended employers who practice age discrimination in hiring by noting that the EEOC does the very same thing. The Chamber cited the EEOC Attorney Honor Program, which employs in “permanent” positions “third-year law student[s], “full-time graduate law students[s],” and “Judicial Law Clerk[s] whose clerkship must be [their] first significant legal employment following [their] graduation.” The EEOC states on its web site that graduates of the Honor Program go on to serve as trial attorneys or Administrative Judges in the EEOC’s District Offices. Since the vast majority of recent law clerks and law and graduate students are under the age of 40, it is not a stretch to conclude that the EEOC program has a disparate impact upon attorneys who are aged 40 and above. That’s supposed to be illegal under the ADEA.
Criticism of an administration or federal agency often is dismissed as partisan politics. I do criticize the Obama administration, the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress for abandoning older workers during the worst recession in 100 years. Millions of older Americans remain subject to pervasive discriminatory hiring practices and bogus layoffs and restructurings. I do not argue, however, that the Republicans would have done better than the Democrats. I simply don’t think they could have done much worse. That’s why I support Bernie.