According to The Wall Street Journal and verified in other business periodicals, including Reuters, there is a lawsuit brought against PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) for hiring a “stunningly low” number of employees over the age of forty. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP acquires virtually all of its entry-level employees at college campuses, guaranteeing a millennial workforce. The suit was filed in San Francisco by Steve Rabin, a certified public accountant, who is claiming that PwC screens out older applicants. Rabin is 53, and his lawsuit is backed by the group AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). For those wishing to follow it, the lawsuit is: Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:16-cv-02276.
Some of PwC’s numbers are not going to look good in court. The median age of accountants and auditors in the U.S. is 43, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average age of the PwC worker is 27, and two-thirds of its 46,000 U.S. workers are in their 20s or early 30s, based on a report released by PwC in 2011. Even if 6 years older in 2017, all other variables held to be the same, that makes the average accountant in the U.S. a significant 10 years older than the average PwC worker.
In 2013, Facebook agreed to settle, rather than go to court over claims by a state agency that accused Facebook of violating employment law by posting jobs seeking recent college graduates. (Perhaps the article meant to say exclusively seeking young college graduates, because all college graduates are not in their early twenties.)
Twitter and Google face similar lawsuits that have yet to be resolved. IBM, icon of American ingenuity, lost an effort to dismiss a class-action lawsuit in November which alleged that IBM lied about needing to downsize. It turns out the downsize was (alleged, I should say) to be an effort to get rid of older workers so that it could hire more recent college graduates; the IBM case will move forward. There have been several cases against IBM of late, as there are more and more lawsuits from older Americans who are consistently rejected for employment or replaced in favor of younger workers. Gee, it’s starting to look like America really is a bad, bad place, and I’ve just been fooled all of this time. One must recognize, though, that those discriminated against do have legal recourse in the U.S. That’s a good thing.
The older workers have (hopefully) been getting raises for the time that they’ve been with the company. New entrants into the work force are paid less. Younger people get sick less than older people, but that is not always true. Older people tend to take less time off, because they are not starting families and taking off for births and the milestones of their children. At what point does experience not count anymore? In the case of IBM, the older employees were given a choice of a pay cut or a layoff, or downsizing. Could anyone imagine offering young people, or women, or disabled people, or minorities the choice of taking a pay cut or losing their job? Had IBM's behavior been aimed at women, minorities, the disabled, or any other group, the Department of Labor would have had jumped on IBM like a wolf on a rabbit.
Screening older employees and keeping them from obtaining employment is just as prejudiced and discriminatory as keeping women, minorities, the disabled, or those of a different sexual orientation from getting a job. Singling out older employees out for different treatment is disparate treatment, strictly forbidden by employment law. By definition, disparate treatment is: “An employee who makes a disparate treatment claim alleges that he or she was treated differently than other employees who were similarly situated, and that the difference was based on a protected characteristic.” Age has been a “protected characteristic” since 1967. I do not see how IBM’s treatment could be seen as anything less than disparate treatment. The legal word on age discrimination, passed in 1967: “The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA (29 U.S.C. § § 621-634), is the primary federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants who are at least 40 years old based on age.”
Based on what has happened, it appears that the older employees are taking it both on the chin and in the wallet. PwC, IBM, and, I am certain others are “screening” out older employees. Because many of the older employees have been squeezed out, due to downsizing and all of that, there are a lot of the older workforce that are unemployed.
Allow me to propose a hypothesis. American companies, on the whole, have not been terribly successful in the world markets, as well as in retaining personnel and market share. Of course there are your successes Google and Facebook, but in manufacturing, like cars and things like that, America has not been doing well. It is possible that the experienced employees have been forced out, and without the knowledge and experience of the older workers, American companies, led by young and inexperienced managers, are floundering in the global economy. An example would be Starbucks, which almost went out of business in 2008, when founder (and old person) Howard Schultz, was brought back from retirement and turned the company around. The young bucks of Starbucks nearly wrecked the firm. I find it amazing that people think that owning some glorified coffee shops can get you a private jet, but it has worked Mr. Schultz. After all, coffee’s a big thing.
I am not saying that the American companies are about to declare bankruptcy tomorrow, just that they have not been as successful as they could have been because the experienced workers have been purged from the payroll. The know-it-all, the “answer is in the computer” millennials are not really impressing some people, although they are doing well with the hiring managers; but then again, maybe the hiring managers are young and they are just hiring people like themselves. I’m pretty sure hiring people that look like you, if you are a hiring manager, is illegal, unethical and unprofessional, but as long as it’s just old people, who cares, right? The old people aren’t being found on Instagram, Snapchat (which just lost $2 billion in May of 2017, paying out billions to its workers and, of course, the founder) or any of the super-important, trending now, catch the wave, the newly-determined GOAT (where “I’m the goat” is the now a compliment). After all, out with the old in with the new.
Research into age discrimination lawsuits will reveal a lot of litigation. The lawyers have found another cash cow, this time the old codgers fighting for a job. Theoretically, if enough old people file enough lawsuits, or the U.S. government realizes the rampant prejudice in the workplace, perhaps some of the discrimination will stop. In the meantime, the struggle for freedom continues.