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 The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

DUTYBOUND TO PROTECT US

FROM THE TRUTH

By  Kara Lane
 




A DUTY IMPOSED BY LAW

In a January 1999 article in Credit Union National Association Magazine, "The term 'Overqualified' Could Mean Discrimination"-1,  Author, Bill Merrick, cited a New York U.S. District Court case of a 54-year-old rejected job applicant that was sent to a jury to decide whether the term meant "too old".  Consequently, employers are advised to "Junk the term 'over qualified'; instead, "...say the person's experience doesn't match the job's requirements"

Accordingly,  compliance with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) depends on what employers tell older applicants, rather than what they actually do.  Employers may lawfully dispose of older workers by shrouding the real reasons with vague language.  Thus,  the ADEA imposes a duty on employers to conceal their discriminatory practices -- 
to protect older workers from learning why they are rejected.

THE EEOC: THE WORD POLICE

The Equal Emplyment Opportunity Commission provides guidance to  employers for  selecting proper language and strategies for safely disposing of older applicants and workers.
EEOC lawyers are alert to court interpretations of anti- discrimination laws,  and, accordingly, continually issue updated tactics for concealing age discrimination by skillful selection of words.

Why is Congress supporting an agency, that claims to protect older workers from discrimination, when it assists employers to conceal discrimination?  The contradiction reflects the politics of the times.

SEMANTIC ENGINEERING FOR GOOD POLITICS.

Congress consists of politicians who depend on our votes and support from powerful corporate, professional and political interest groups for their careers.  It determines  the amount of money to be allocated to the EEOC

Because age discrimination is masked with vague and meaningless language,  rejected older applicants and jettisoned older workers are bereft of proof  supporting their suspicions that they are victims of age discrimination. 

If  employers clearly told them the truth,   many older workers would be confident in complaining that they are deprived of employment opportunities because of their age.  They would act out their anger by pressuring elected officials and supporting legislation for remedies.  This is what happened in 1978 and 1986 and spurred Congress to abolish manditory retirement for many workers.-2

Moreover,   policy makers are undoubtedly aware of  the Pandora's box that  looms about the issue of why older workers seek  jobs for which they are substantially over -qualified  They can envisage the onerous  task of justifying to  their older constituents that they are driven to jobs for which they are substantially over-qualified,  because they are denied more attractive jobs because of their age.

Substitution of vague, meaningless language for the term,"over-qualified", by camauflaging true reasons for rejecting older workers, shields elected officials from these thorny issues.  The EEOC is dutybound to serve our political system by monitoring employers words to ensure they are protecting us from the truth 

LEGALESE

The rationale for rejecting over-qualified workers of any age is that they will be dissatisfied in jobs in which they are substantially overqualified.  Then why is "over qualified" a potential smoking gun for age discrimination?

When a rejected applicant files an ADEA charge,  employers must justify the rejection by asserting lack of skills and abilities to perform the job. A statement that an applicant has too much of the required abilities, skills or experience would be logically absurd. 

Language manipulation allows employers to minimize risks of legal trouble when disposing  of older workers  Nonetheless,
the growing proportion of "over-qualified" applicants over age 55 remain unemployed. 

A LOOK AT PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

The obvious practical solution is to remove age barriers to jobs that fit the various levels of knowledge, skills and abilities among workers over age 55.

This can be accomplished by implementing the economic remedies that have successfully facilitated acceptance of other stigmatized workers,  including affirmative action programs for employers that receive government funds and tax breaks for employing workers over age 55.

POLITICAL TACTICS CONCEALING URGENCY OF NEED FOR SOLUTIONS.

Medical doctors must know the causes of disorders before they can define them and detrmine  the urgency of  need for treatment.  Likewise, we must know the causes of social and economic disorders, before we can define them and determine the urgency of the call for policy action.

Current schemes for concealing the reasons for rejecting older workers merely obscures the compelling need for practical solutions for the angry, deprived, unemployed workers over 55, their families and taxpayers who may be obligated to support them.  Why are elected officials shielding themselves from this disgrace? Evidently, higher priorities preoccupy them -- their political careers.

REFERENCES

1. Read the article in Fortune Small Business Online.
Nance-Nash, Sheryl, "Over Qualified.or Too Old" Calling a job seeker over qualified can get you in legal hot water. Click Here

2. Ehrenberg, Ronald G, Smith, Robert S. Modern Labor Economics,  Harper Collins inc. 1990
 
 

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