Jobs -- Age Discrimination?

by: DaveJ

Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 20:00

Would enforcement of age discrimination laws change the unemployment equation?  

In 'Too Young Not to Work but Too Old to Work', The Washington Independent takes a look at age discrimination,

The unemployment rate for over-55s is at the highest level since 1948. Since the recession started, both the number of older people seeking work and the rate of unemployment for over-55s have increased more sharply than for all other demographic groups. And older workers comprise a high share of the long-term unemployed. In May, the average duration of unemployment for older job-seekers climbed to 44.2 weeks, 11 more weeks than the national average. Nearly six in ten older job-seekers have been out of work for more than six months.

If national trends are anything like what I see here in Silicon Valley, where many of the waves of layoffs specifically targeted older workers because they have higher health-care costs and are paid more, then enforcement could make a difference.  People could begin to find jobs with healthcare, and start meeting their mortgage and other obligations again.

Companies here in Silicon Valley shed their older workers during the years of Bush-era non-enforcement of labor laws.  They were forced to sign "waivers" saying they would not complain about the age discrimination, told if they did not sign they would not receive any severance that was available or would be denied unemployment compensation.

Now, during the Obama-era non-enforcement of labor laws many companies around here flat-out will not hire people over "a certain age" (varies by profession) and everyone knows it.  The unemployment rate is lower because so many older people understand the situation and are not "actively" looking for work.  They are still unemployed but not counted in the statistics.

DaveJ :: Jobs -- Age Discrimination?
(Don't get me started about the scam of a company laying off older, higher-wage workers and then pleading that they can't find qualified workers so can they import H1B workers, who are lower-paid.  There are legitimate reasons for H1B workers, and then there are wage-reducing scams.)

From the article,

Still, evidence of age bias in hiring is accumulating in academic research and anecdotal reports to the EEOC, Commission on Civil Rights and AARP. In one famed 2005 study, a Texas A&M economist sent out 4,000 job applications for entry-level positions. (The resumes were only women's.) Older workers were 40 percent less likely to receive a response back. And of the letters sent to Congress last week, a vast majority mentioned age, many coming from older workers who had applied for hundreds of positions, to no avail.

It is these older long-term-unemployed workers for whom the now-ending COBRA subsidies were, literally, a lifesaver.  These are the people who either will not be able to get a health insurance policy because they tend to have conditions that insurance companies don't want to cover, or who won't be able to afford the policy anyway if they can get it.  You see, they are unemployed and health care costs much more for older people.

If age discrimination laws were enforced would this change the nature of unemployment?  As these workers are reluctantly hired by companies afraid to be caught in a "sting" or other enforcement operation the pool of remaining unemployed will shift.

This is worth a try.  The Labor Department could publicly announce a campaign of enforcement -- they don't even have to actually do it -- and employers across the country would begin to hire a token person over 45 here and there.  

Another area where law enforcement could do some good is by enforcing regulations that determine whether an employee is a "contractor" or a real employee.  If the Labor Department enforced those regulations many people would being to receive the benefits, vacations, overtime and other advantages of regular employment that they are currently denied on a mass scale.  

Again, from the article,

Unfortunately, policy experts fear that age discrimination in hiring, compounded by the recession, is a problem without a solution. Individuals can bring cases against individual companies, but discrimination is virtually impossible to prove, even if it is easy to see as an aggregate phenomenon. Plus, McCann says, explains, the phenomenon is so prevalent that discrimination simply seems like reality.

An idea, what about a pretend enforcement campaign?  If we can't get the Obama administration to act on this - it has been a year and a half and Bush-era non-enforcement continues - maybe we can get The Yes Men to pretend to be the Labor Department doing its job, and announce enforcement operations.  This will trigger at least some hiring as companies are reminded that the government used to enforce the law, and might again one day.

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I don't know what this "Yes Men" thing is about (4.00 / 5)
but I'd like to thank you for raising this issue here.

I know several people in this boat and I myself am at risk of being in it.  I consider myself lucky to be working in IT at all at my age, even if it's for a multinational I otherwise detest, and even if I know I'm damned good at what I do, because without the luck of finding someone needing my skills at the right moment, there but for fortune go I.  I was laid off for 3 months at age 50 and didn't think I'd ever find anything.  Only an extremely lucky break got me back in the game again, after which my skills had a chance to shine.  Otherwise, no one would take a chance on a greying IT guy.

Since raising the retirement age is now on the table as a solution to the non-problem of Social Security, it is VITAL to raise this issue.  WHAT JOBS????

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

The health care bill is far more important in this respect (4.00 / 1)
A single 55 year old can make a million dollar claim and bankrupt a small company.

A lot of them can bankrupt a large company.  See Ford, GM, Chrysler.


Small companies are not the prime age-discriminators (0.00 / 0)

Age discrimination is, in my view much more the tactic of large corporations than small ones.  The small company has to treat each hiring decision much more seriously.  It's a life and death decision for them.  Sure, health insurance costs probably factor into it, but they are also much closer to being able to understand the plus side of the contributions that an older hire might bring to the table.

Whereas, in the large corporation, managed so as to get "the Street's" blessing, they're managing more by raw numbers, trying to meet "targets" set from on high about offshoring and the like.  In talking to my colleagues, it seems possible that I am the last IT guy taken on by them as an employee.  They know of no counterexample, and I was hired in 2004!  This is amazing in a corporation of that size.  Once in, my performance was my ticket, but I could just as easily never gotten the chance.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
benefits aren't cheap for small employers (0.00 / 0)
Where I work we do benefits consulting for small businesses, where small is less than or equal 30 generally.  The biggest contributor to the premiums increasing each and every year is age.  There's a lot of incentive to hire younger workers, unless it's a job function that needs someone with tons of experience and a proven track record.

If we had real health care reform none of this would be an issue any more.  Not that I am surprised by the outcome.

[ Parent ]
From what I'm seeing, hiring is trending to lower age. (4.00 / 1)
I even think that if you are past the age of thirty five and not had significant advancement, you're screwed too.

"They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

This is important, but still just a symptom. (4.00 / 3)
It's vital to remember that much of the current unemployment is structural rather than cyclical- many jobs have been permanently destroyed and aren't coming back, and decent replacement jobs are nowhere in sight. Under the circumstances SOMEBODY is always going to be getting it in the neck, and it's just a question of the identity of the victims. There's no way to choose them "fairly".

Unless the political system gets serious about squeezing the surplus out of the predator class that wrecked the economy and stuck us with the bill, and using the revenues to create jobs (and God knows there are plenty of unmet needs in our society- just fixing the decaying infrastructure of our cities would take many years and countless workers), we are well and truly fucked. Which means, I think we're well and truly fucked, period.  

Yes (0.00 / 0)
The jobs disappear, and the decision of who goes is the discriminatory opportunity because they cost more to keep.

And you have it right, under our economic system there is every incentive to eliminate YOUR job.  Someone gets the extra cash, you get thrown on the street.


Seeing The Forest -- Who is our economy FOR, anyway? Twitter: dcjohnson

[ Parent ]
yeah, an understood truth (0.00 / 0)
That's why I left IT.  The age discrimination is especially awful.  I don't want to get screwed 20 years from now.  It's too bad -- I was good at what I did.


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