A Million Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?

What happens when  an individual or group asserts a human right that interferes with another individual or group’s rights and freedoms?

If the disadvantaged group is older Americans, their rights silently slip away.

Earlier this month, a coalition of 55 top U.S. companies  called The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative issued a press release touting a  “long-term effort” in the Atlanta area to bring jobs to “youth” aged 16 to 24 who are not in school or unemployed. Coalition members made thousands of on-the-spot job offers at a job fair on May 3. Coalition members have held similar hiring  events in Washington,  D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle since the coalition’s formation six years ago.

The coalition now says it “aims to hire at least 1 million youth nationally  by 2021.”

The problem is that it is illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) to refuse to hire workers aged 40 and above because of their age or, alternatively, because they aren’t between the ages of 16 and 24.  It also is illegal for a company to adopt a policy or practice  that has a disparate impact upon older workers.  Clearly, the rights of older workers to be free from invidious age discrimination in hiring have given way … but to what exactly?

Systemic Barriers

The coalition claims it helps “youth” who face systemic barriers to education and employment.  Coalition marketing materials focus on young African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians. But older African Americans,Hispanics and Asians  also face barriers to employment and education, including age discrimination in hiring by  coalition members.

It seems the rights of older Americans have given way to the “rights” of younger Americans. But younger Americans are not covered by federal and state laws governing age discrimination in employment. They have no rights in this regard.

So what is really going on here?

Sales and Selling

The U.S. Congress made age discrimination in hiring illegal 50 years ago because the problem was so extensive – especially with respect to sales. Older workers were literally being  driven out of the workforce in their 40s.  Then as now, employers preferred to hire young people who are cheaper and have minimal health complications.  Moreover, young workers present an image of freshness and vigor that is thought to boost sales for restaurants and the purveyors of consumer goods, including shampoo, hotel rooms and pizza.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that   members of  The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative seem to be concentrated in sales? Coalition members include: Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft, Macy’s, Walgreens, CVS, Ulta, Target, Taco Bell, Red Robin, UPS,Toms, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Nordsrom, Hilton, Hyatt, Bank of America, FedEx, Five Guys, Alaska Airlines, Chipolte, Dominos, CVS, Lyft, Uber, Prudential, etc.

Best Kept Secret?

Aside from this blog, there has been no public opposition to The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative.

The Initiative was  launched in 2015 – spearheaded by Starbucks –  with the tacit approval of the Obama administration. It met with stony silence from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and that stalwart protector of the rights of Americans aged 50+, the AARP. Then Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, now the chair of the Democratic National Committee, actually applauded the initiative.

A Starbucks spokesperson at the time made a completely baffling distinction between collective and individual hiring decisions – claiming age “is not a factor in individual hiring decisions.”

For six long years, the DOL, EEOC and AARP have managed to contain their outrage.

Some things are clear.

The ADEA applies to employers who “fail or refuse to hire” any individual “because of such individual’s age.” The ADEA applies to workers aged 40 and above. This means it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire workers because they are over the age of 24.

The other thing that is clear is that “The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative” has succeeded beyond its wildest expectations.  Instead of 100,000 jobs, the coalition partners now expect to exclude older workers from applying for a million jobs, which are reserved for “youth” aged 16 to 24.

Maybe  the organizations that are supposed enforce the civil rights for older Americans will take notice as the stakes rise? Don’t hold your breath. After-all, The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative is for the “youth.”

And that, folks, is yet another example of The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace.

One thought on “A Million Violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?”

  1. The EEOC needs to be abolished. EEOC’s Carlton M. Hadden, failure to enforce federal EEO protections & retaliation laws … Is this JUSTICE in AMERICA for our Nation’s BLACK VETERANS? What happened to Transparency & Accountability? EEOC’s Hadden looked the other way.

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