Entries in age discrimination (3)


Centurion Denied Credit Card Because of Her Age

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When Madeleine Otto was offered the chance to open a credit card at Stein Mart, a department store in Tequesta, Fla., and save $10 on her purchases, she jumped at the chance. She handed the cashier her driver's license, and waited for approval.  Except it didn't happen.  Otto's credit application was denied.

"The casher said, 'I'm sorry, we can't give you a credit card because you're too old,'" said Otto, who turns 100 on Oct. 18.

Otto was dumbfounded. She had never heard of anyone being refused credit because of their advanced age.  It didn't make sense to her, and she felt bad.

So did the cashier.  "She came around and hugged me and said she was sorry," Otto recalled.  

Otto went out to her car, and cried.

"I was embarrassed, I felt bad about it," she said.  "I'm 100 years old -- I drive, I do everything myself, I shop.  I'm not like an ordinarily 100 year old."

So, what gives?  Can you be refused credit because of your age?

Absolutely not, said Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits creditors from discriminating against applicants based on age.

"An elderly consumer can be favored for age, but not discriminated against for that reason," she said, adding that 'elderly' is defined as 62 or older.

On the other hand, consumers can be turned down credit for being too young; the minimum age to obtain a credit card in the United States is 18.

And that's precisely what happened to Otto.

The issue wasn't that she was too old, it's that she was too young -- or so the computer thought.  The credit card check system required the last two digits of Otto's birth year, which was 1912.  The cashier input the year as "12" -- which the computer registered as 2012.  That would not only have made Otto under 18, but technically unborn -- and not eligible for credit.

"It was a date input error," said Stein Mart spokesperson Linda Tasseff.  

Otto was sent an apology from Stein Mart "explaining that the reason was because I was underage," said Otto.  "They also sent me a $50 gift certificate."

Otto said she doesn't mind, but Detweiler, of, laughed when she heard about the computer glitch.

"Some programmer's going to get the lender into a lot of hot water by not thinking that through," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Philadelphia Woman, 73, Testifies Age Has Kept Her Unemployed

Courtesy of the Senate Committee on Aging(NEW YORK) -- Sheila Whitelaw of Philadelphia is a college graduate and has managed three different non-profits as executive director.  Despite her experience, she said one particular trait may have caused difficulty in her two-year job search: her age.

Whitelaw, 73, said she never had difficulty working or finding a job until she was laid off from a clothing business when she was 71 and had to look for work.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that about 4.2 million older workers were unemployed or underemployed in January 2011, and 3.65 million remained unemployed or underemployed in December 2011.

Whitelaw says age discrimination may be playing a part in her ability to get part-time or full-time work.

"I have really good credentials and a very varied background but have seen myself involved in age discrimination in the workplace," she said.

Unemployed, and with her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, in a nursing home, Whitelaw's income is from Social Security benefits and food stamps of $35 a month.

She said she has sent out "hundreds and hundreds" of resumes and had 15 job interviews, with employers sometimes dissuading her from applying for various reasons, such as the physical demands of the job.

Whitelaw testified in front of the Senate Special Committee on Aging on Tuesday for a hearing called "Missed by the Recovery: Solving the Long Term Unemployment Crisis for Older Workers."

"I feel very passionate about it because I don't get a chance to talk about it," she said. "I know unemployment is high everywhere, but I'm not sure people are focused on the older worker and we have a lot to offer."

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age, for both employees and job applicants.  However, worker advocates say greater education and outreach is needed as employers continue to discriminate against the mature workforce.

While younger workers have had the highest unemployment since the start of the recession in 2007, older workers have seen the biggest increases in long-term unemployment.

By 2011, 55 percent of unemployed older workers had been actively seeking a job for 27 weeks or more, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The April GAO report stated that only a third of older workers displaced from 2007 to 2009 found full-time work by 2010.  Those who did had greater earnings losses than re-employed younger workers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Roadhouse Sued for Age Discrimination

IM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Texas Roadhouse restaurants reportedly rejected applicants for jobs as waiters and bartenders by telling them things like, "We think you are a little too old to work here."

It needed greeters, it said, but only "young, hot ones who are 'chipper'." Comments like these, documented in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, have prompted a lawsuit charging age discrimination.

"It's a nationwide pattern of age discrimination," EEOC senior trial attorney Markus Penzel tells ABC News. The commission's suit, he says, rests on "anecdotal evidence -- people who said and heard things," on the company's own documents, including in-house training videos, and on statistical analysis.

According to the EEOC, only 1.9 percent of so-called 'front of the house' employees, meaning greeters, waiters, bartenders, etc., at Texas Roadhouse are aged 40 or older. By federal law, persons in that age group constitute are a class protected from age discrimination.

The percentage, says the EEOC, is "well below" the percentage in the general population at the restaurants' locations and well below the percentage in the pool of applicants seeking jobs from Texas Roadhouse.

Roadhouse spokesman Travis Doster, responding to the lawsuit, told ABC News: "Texas Roadhouse is an equal opportunity employer. We deny the allegations and will defend against these claims in court."
Penzel says his agency has witnessed an increase in age discrimination complaints during the current economic downturn. Older workers have suffered "the longest spell of high unemployment" seen in the past 60 years.

New Jersey attorney Glenn Savits, of Green, Savits & Lorenzo in Morristown, specializes in age discrimination suits. He views the Roadhouse case as "disturbing," especially at a time when finding jobs is getting tougher and tougher. "It's pure age discrimination," he says.

Youth is not a bona fide requirement for waiting tables or greeting, Savits says. He rejects the notion that older workers are more costly -- that being more experienced, they must always command higher wages, and thus be less attractive to employers:

The Roadhouse case hardly stands alone. Other recent, high-profile cases alleging age discrimination include a class action suit brought against Quest Diagnostics by Savits, and a suit against Google brought on behalf of a fired 54-year old computer executive by California attorney Barry Bunshoft of Duane Morris LLP in San Francisco.

Bunshoft, referring to the Texas Roadhouse suit, says, "If your policy is to hire only people under 40 for the front of the house, that's against the law. Period. If you're qualified to do the work, you should have a serious shot at it, regardless of age."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio