Saturday, November 20, 2010

EEOC Hears Testimony on Impact of Recession and Age Discrimination on Older Worrkers

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a meeting at which various experts testified that age discrimination is causing the nation’s older workers to have a difficult time maintaining and finding new employment, a problem exacerbated by the downturn in the economy. The hearing was conducted at a time in which the number and percentage of age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC have grown, rising from 16,548 charges--21.8% of all charges--filed in fiscal year 2006, to 22,778--24.4% of all charges--in fiscal year 2009.

In the leadoff testimony, Dr. William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, testified that the rate of unemployment for people age 55 and over "rose from a pre-recession low of 3.0 percent (November 2007) to reach 7.3% in August, 2010, making the past 22 months the longest spell of high unemployment workers in this age group have experienced in 60 years." Older workers also spend far more time searching for work and are jobless for far longer periods of time compared to workers under 55.

In addition, the EEOC heard testimony on legal issues from Mary Anne Sedey, Partner, Sedey Harper P.C., Michael Foreman, Clinical Professor, Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law, and R. Scott Oswald, Principal, The Employment Law Group. This was followed by testimony on employer best practices from Deborah Russell, Director, Workforce Issues, American Association of Retired Persons and Cornelia Gamlem, President, GEMS Group and Society for Human Resource Management. Among other things, Gamlem highlighted strategies to create discrimination-free workplaces that recognize the value of older workers; programs, such as flexible work arrangements, that enable employees to work longer if they choose to do so; and ways to implement reductions-in-force to avoid inadvertent age-based discrimination.
"Hard working men and women should never be harassed at work or forced out of their jobs on account of their age,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “The testimony we heard today also sheds light on some of the unique challenges faced by older job seekers and will be invaluable as the Commission works to strengthen its enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act."

"The treatment of older workers is a matter of grave concern for the Commission,” said EEOC Commissioner Stuart J. Ishimaru. “We must be vigilant that employers do not use the current economy as an excuse for discrimination against older workers.'
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Press Release (November 17, 2010)

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