Older job applicants are up to three times less likely to be selected for interviews than younger ones. Add race–or any other diversity characteristic–and the chances are even slimmer.
Age bias, stereotyping and discrimination.
EEOC Pursues Age and Race Discrimination
In June, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against R3 Government Solutions, LLC, a staffing company for human resources operations, training and support. According to the documents, a black contracted recruiter was fired after openly opposing the company’s discriminatory hiring practices that dismissed applicants based on age and race.
The claimant reported to the company president, who allegedly instructed her to ask questions to determine an employee’s age and screen out older applicants, violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The recruiter also claimed Black applicants were put through a more difficult hiring process and that restrictions were based on national origin, both in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
After refusing to enforce the president’s request, the contractor (who was not named) alleged she was told to “do as directed because, as a Black single mother with no college degree, nobody else would hire her or pay her what she was earning at R3.”
A settlement of $82,500 was reached. Additionally, the company must maintain a policy prohibiting discrimination and retaliation, retain an applicant database and a record of complaints to be submitted to the EEOC and provide compliance training to a wide range of personnel, among other requirements.
Earlier this year, the EEOC won a $460,000 settlement from Fischer Connectors after the company fired a human resources director and replaced her with two younger workers after she questioned the company over its plans to replace older workers with a younger workforce. According to the complaint, the CEO made discriminatory age-related comments about employees, denied jobs to older employees in favor of younger, less-qualified candidates and forced older upper-management workers out through job eliminations.
A New Workplace Reality
It is disheartening that workplace discrimination, bullying and retaliation still exist. No employee wants to be at the receiving end of such hostile behavior, and speaking up may make things worse. Moreover, one study shows that female whistleblowers are treated more harshly than men.
In her article, Female Whistleblowers Face More Retaliation – Here’s How To Avoid It, Forbes Senior Contributor Kim Elsesser wrote, “Researchers believe that women face more retaliation because, in raising moral objections, they aren’t adhering to gender stereotypes. Even though the whistleblowers may feel they are working toward a greater good, others perceive them as putting their own interests first. And women aren’t expected to put their interests first. When women deviate from expectations of how they are expected to behave, they can face backlash and retaliation at work.”
According to Elsesser’s article, framing the complaint as a concern for the company’s compliance risk or loss of reputation makes the complaint less about the individual and more about the company. While it’s not a guarantee that the complaint will be free from consequences, according to the study, it did reduce retaliation for both men and women.
No one likes to be a tattle-tale, and it takes courage to speak up. Yet the only way to ensure employers are not getting away with unlawful practices is to report them.