EEOC initiative targets age discrimination

Age discriminationThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the EEOC, which administers the law, is going all out with a series of public events and stepped-up enforcement.

The commission kicked off ADEA observances in June, with hearings where experts spoke about the continued relevance of the law half a century after its passage. Persistent age discrimination and stereotypes about older workers, they testified, continues to push older, experienced individuals out of the workforce. That exclusion, experts said, limits growth throughout the U.S. economy.

The EEOC has also launched a series of age discrimination lawsuits to mark the ADEA’s half-century mark.

For example, in mid-June, the EEOC sued Atlas Resource Partners, a Texas business, over allegations that it used stereotypes as an excuse to drive out a 52-year old foreman with years of industry experience. The lawsuit says supervisors made age-biased comments suggesting that the man was “too old for the job”—and then fired him to make room for a younger worker. The 52-year old had no disciplinary record and earned good reviews up until his discharge.

The EEOC also recently settled an age discrimination case involving a part-time college instructor who was turned down for a full-time job at age 66. The adjunct professor at City Colleges of Chicago, who had performed the job part-time for five years, applied for a full-time opening. Two younger and substantially less experienced instructors were hired instead.

The EEOC settled the case without a trial, securing a $60,000 payment to the snubbed instructor. In addition, the college’s administrators will undergo mandatory training on age discrimination.

Bottom line: Expect more EEOC outreach in the form of litigation as the agency celebrates the ADEA’s passage. Now is a good time to brush up on age discrimination and train managers about the law. Emphasize that almost any comment about an applicant or employee’s age is likely to trigger a discrimination complaint.