After millions of baby boomers lost their life savings during the financial crisis (a catastrophe for which no senior bankers were ever held accountable), more old white men are being forced out of retirement or simply being forced to work until a much later age.
Unfortunately for older Americans, rampant ageism in the workforce is making it difficult to get well-paying work – or even, as the following case shows, a job at the local restaurant and bar.
To wit, Darden’s Season 52 chain of restaurants was has been forced to pay $2.85 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that job candidates interviewing for jobs at the chain’s 41 locations had been told that they wouldn’t be considered because the company didn’t hire “old white guys,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“Often, discrimination cases are hard to prove,” said David Seltzer, an attorney on the case with the EEOC’s Miami district office. “But here, Seasons 52 interviews across locations repeatedly told applicants things like ‘We don’t hire people over 40,’ ‘Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh’ or asked them for their date of birth, high school graduation date or a driver’s license.”
The EEOC alleged that one manager bluntly said Seasons 52 didn’t employ “old white guys.'”
Though the company escaped an admission of liability (and continues to deny the allegations) it will now be required to hold new training for all hiring managers regarding “age-neutral and non-discriminatory recruiting, interviewing, and hiring; and how to avoid stereotypes in hiring and in the workplace, including ageism and age stereotypes.”
Also, the victims of the company’s purported discrimination will be invited to reapply for positions at the restaurant. Season 52 has also been required to have its hiring practices monitored for three years by an independent attorney.
The case, which was filed in February 2015, alleged that Darden’s Seasons 52 chain tried to portray a “young and hip” image by hiring younger servers and hosts.
Both the plaintiffs and Darden said they were happy to put the case behind them, while the plaintiffs said the victory was an important step toward showing American employers that older workers could keep up (though we imagine the victory won’t impact the decision making of managers at independent restaurants and bars across the country).
“We are pleased to resolve this EEOC matter,” said a statement from Darden spokesman Hunter Robinson. “Putting this behind us is good for Seasons 52, good for our team members and good for our shareholders.”
“In Florida, we’ve seen over the years numerous situations where there’s a preference for younger workers over older workers, whether it’s just for show, or they don’t think older people can do the work because they don’t think they can keep up,” said Robert Weisberg, an attorney in the EEOC’s Miami office. “It’s a pervasive problem in many industries and particularly pervasive in hospitality.”
One lawyer who spoke with the Sentinel described the case as a “significant victory” for the EEOC and the nation’s (rapidly swelling) number of senior citizens who are being forced to continue working – or in some cases reenter the workforce – in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
No doubt, most Americans know somebody who is being forced to linger in the workforce for longer than they ideally would’ve liked.
As we pointed out last year, almost 19% of people 65 or older were working at least part-time in the second quarter of 2017, according to the US jobs report released on Friday. The age group’s employment/population ratio hasn’t been higher in 55 years, before American retirees won better health care and Social Security benefits starting in the late 1960s.
Least the millennials who are presently dominating the American workforce hope they might be spared a similar fate, perhaps thanks to the adoption of progressive social welfare programs like UBI, we have some disheartening news: They won’t.
Older Americans are working more even as those under 65 are working less, a trend that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to continue. By 2024, 36% of 65- to 69-year-olds will be active participants in the labor market, the BLS says. That’s up from just 22% in 1994.
And the trend looks likely to continue, as the chart above shows.
Assuming they don’t become crypto millionaires or get discovered yodeling in a Wal-Mart, all the young, hot servers at Season 52 and other restaurants who are hoping for a measure of job security as they inexorably approach their 30s (an age where they will inevitably grow to loathe the fresh-eyed 22-year-olds that management favors) might want to consider a more marketable line of work.
Might we suggest coding?