Rhonda, a human resource professional then age 55, had applied to become the Executive Secretary to the City Manager of a small city in the San Francisco bay area. Rhonda ranked the highest out of all applicants for the position, but was not selected. She would soon discover why when she received a call from the EEOC. Rhonda was not alone. . .
Two others, ages 57 and 58, had also received higher scores than the 39-year-old, who was selected for the position.
Q. Why Do You Think the City Manager Did What He Did?
I think he felt that he was in a position of power and could do what he wanted. I don't think he gave everyone a fair chance because he had already made up his mind.
Q. What Do You Want People to Take Away from Your Experience?
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly, you should move forward, trust the process, and see the outcome. Even if it doesn't come out in your favor, you tried. People get away with it and it's easier to happen to the next person if you don't say anything.
Q. How Was Your Experience with the EEOC?
I was impressed by the EEOC. I know how difficult it can be to prove any type of discrimination. I was impressed that they pressed forward. The staff was very professional and caring. They followed through with everything they said they would do. It was pleasantly surprising. Every contact I had was positive.
Q. What Do You Want People to Know About Older Workers?
We have a lot to offer. We have experience. We keep up with training and technology.
Q. Do You Have Any Wishes for Society as the ADA Turns 50?
Stop apologizing for your age. I work in human resources and have been on interview panels. I often see people over 40 say things like "I don't plan on retiring soon." Stop saying that. It's a job that you have just as much right to apply for as the next person. Your age is irrelevant so long as you can do the job.
I hope we can try to look more at a person's skillset than "do they look like me?" Stop making assumptions about age. Look at ability. Everyone has something to offer. We need a variety of input. When you are too similar, you don't get that variety.
From the EEOC Attorney's Perspective
Q. Why Was This Case So Important to the EEOC and Older Workers?
This case is important because it reflects the EEOC's ongoing commitment to enforce the ADEA. The EEOC stood up for the older workers in this case because Rhonda was clearly more qualified than the selectee, and the case had strong evidence of age discrimination.