Thursday, February 8, 2018

Age Discrimination Still On The Rise - Even Online

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The news in the latest AARP Bulletin ('Age Discrimination Goes Online', December, p. 6) was not sanguine for most older citizens looking for work - either to shore up their retirement savings, or to help pay for medical or dental bills. Worse, the specter of such discrimination has now gone online making it extremely difficult for oldsters to apply for jobs without being exposed - in the application process - as an oldie, i.e. "over the hill", and no longer needed.

Where or how did this punitive meme begin? Probably with a Fortune 500 White paper published in 1996, which few seem to have read, that made the case that once a worker reaches 50 years of age it's a matter of "diminishing returns" for any company that retains them. Why? Well, they demand too high an income and as they age there are more medical issues meaning more health benefits are required.

According to the AARP piece:

"In one recent study - the largest of its kind- researchers sent out over 40,000 resumes to apply for more than 13,000 job openings posted online in 12 cities. To test for age discrimination, they responded to each posting with three resumes representing different age groups (young, middle aged and senior) Even though all had similar skills, older candidates received far fewer call backs than young or middle-aged workers."

According to Patrick Button, one of the study co-authors and an assistant professor of economics at Tufts University (ibid.):

"It's just age; it doesn't have to do with experience".

So that given the natures of the resumes and skill descriptions, the only conceivable reasons for rejection had to be based on age. This is deplorable, but some may recall that 50 or so years ago it was commonplace to see help wanted ads with the notice:

"Only workers under 35 need apply."

In addition, employers could force worker into early retirement based on age.

So if you were older you were basically put out to pasture as it were.  That changed with the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act - known by the acronym ADEA.

While ADEA and other laws implemented have helped they have not solved the problem, the problem being that too many companies still prefer younger workers. So, facing the federal and other age discrimination laws, employers have had to develop new tactics to screen applications for oldies.

One tactic seen in numerous online applications is that they feature drop-down menus that only go back to the 1980s. If you have job experience before then, well too bad, you are a dino who deserves to land in a rocking chair - never mind you still need to make up for the  401(k) losses suffered in the 2008 crash.

Other online applications require birth dates and if you try to be too clever by half, i.e. skipping the question, the application won't be accepted.  Meanwhile, other job listings expressly state a preference for "digital natives" - meaning that lot that grew up using computers.  Mainly Gen X and Millennials

  The stats showing  charges filed with the EEOC are shown below and the amounts awarded, excluding litigation:
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 The AARP piece also showed the extent to which the age discriminators can go by citing the case of a 50 year old (recall that Fortune 500 paper), Steve Rabin, who applied for an accounting job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  As noted therein (ibid.):

"In Rabin's case, many of the firm's entry level positions were posted on a web page accessible only to college students. And the online application also required answers to questions that made it easy to identify and reject older applicants."

Even when Rabin finally managed to get an interview he was asked the question:

"Would you be able to work for a younger manager or director?"

Despite answering his good experiences with younger workers, Rabin wasn't hired.  But it shouldn't have been a surprise. According to Laurie McCann, senior attorney for the AARP Foundation:

"It's pretty blatant. There's nothing in there that says age and yet there's an adverse impact on older applicants."

We should also note, as the AARP does, that "federal courts have also eroded the protections that employees can turn to. A ruling in 2009 declared that it's not enough to show that age was one of the factors in losing a job. Rather, the individual must prove it's the primary factor."

All of this is one more major reason we need to increase Social Security benefits, and especially cease offsetting any COLA increases with increases in Medicare premiums. Bottom line: you don't get to tell an oldster to "go back to work" to get more money for retirement security, when there is little or no chance of being hired.

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