Sunday, September 2, 2012
No Jobs For Old People
Richard Eggers is a 68 years old resident of Des Moines, Iowa. He was fired in July 2012 from his job as a customer service representative at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage because of an incident that occurred in 1963, over 50 years ago, according to the Des Moines Register. He put a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine. He admits it was a stupid stunt, but he cannot believe that he was fired because of it 50 years later. Big banks have been firing older low-level employees like Eggers since new federal banking employment guidelines were enacted in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines took hold in February, it was reported in the Des Moines Register. The tougher standards are meant to clear out older executives and mid-level bank employees and anyone guilty of transactional crimes — such as identity theft and money laundering — but are being applied across the board against older employees. Wells Fargo confirmed Eggers' termination. "The expectations that have been placed on us and all financial institutions have never been higher," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Angela Kaipust. Banks have fired thousands of workers nationally, said Natasha Buchanan, an attorney in Santa Ana, Calif., who has helped some of the workers regain their eligibility to be employed. There is no government or industry data on the number of older bank workers fired due to criminal background checks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provides a waiver process employees can follow to show they're still fit to work at a bank despite a past criminal conviction, but it usually takes six months to a year to be approved. There is also a process for automatic waiver that works more quickly but is limited to people who were sentenced to less than year of jail time and never spent a day locked up. Eggers was jailed two days. Sadly, he doesn't qualify. So he joins the ranks of the older unemployed who may never find another job. America is fast becoming a land where there are no jobs for old people. Government employees from the Senior Executive Service to the lowliest General Service employee, along with Fortune 500 middle management executives, and super lawyers from multi-national law firms are being shown the door. America has more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world. Americans love to sue each other. In the most litigation-happy country in the world, lawyers are being fired. Today's recession is not like the recession of the 1930's. Typically when the economy goes down, lawsuit filings go up, according to a former super lawyer who was let go from a prominent law firm. The only kind of legal filings that have gone up in this economy are bankruptcy cases. When the housing bubble bursted, the number of people filing for bankruptcy went through the roof. Lawsuit filings in general have gone down. President Richard Nixon had his Enemies List. President George Bush had his Wanted List. President Barack Obama has his Kill List; and Linda de Soto has her "Hit List". Lisa De Soto is the Deputy Commissioner for SSA/ODAR, the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability and Adjudication Review. Deputy Commissioner Linda de Soto and Chief Administrative Law Judge Frank Cristaudo fabricated bogus charges against Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and forced many into early retirement. According to a well placed source high in the Social Security Administration's Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge, Lisa de Soto has stated that she has a list of 25 ALJs that she intends to get rid of. This is her "Hit List". She has set about her goal in a most vigorous manner. A federal agency is required to follow its own regulations. This mean very little to Lisa de Soto and Frank Cristaudo. They have violated many SSA regulations concerning the discipline and removal of agency personnel. Cristaudo and de Soto have brought charges against judges. Chief Judge Cristaudo has testified at Federal Labor Relations Administrative hearings designed to censure or remove judges. None of the charges against any of the judges have alleged poor performance as a judge, or dereliction of duty. No substantive charges have been brought against any judges. Instead, judges have been charged with, among other things, receiving personal mail at the office, misuse of a government computer, and saving pictures on their computers of persons other than immediate family members. Frank Cristaudo has made a career of destroying other peoples' careers. He tried running for public office in New Jersey and could not get elected. Some how he managed to get appointed an administrative law judge at the Social Security Administration. He could not conduct a proper hearing so someone appointed him as the Chief Judge. Who better to appoint chief judge than someone who cannot conduct a hearing? It is better to put such a person in an administrative position. That way he does not have to go near a court room. But in a rat race, the biggest rat always manages to winnow his way to the top. Linda de Soto's career had not bottomed out before joining SSA. She was the Social Security Administration's General Counsel. She is an experienced attorney who has held a number of senior management positions in the private and federal sector. She specialized in procurement, bilateral and multilateral negotiations, conflict resolution and organizational change. Most recently, she was the Country Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development's (AID) Office of Transition Initiatives in Nigeria. Before that, she served as the General Counsel of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and as Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Contract and Commodity Management for the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) in Washington, D.C. Not all judges are paid to judge. One-fifth of SSA's judges do not hold hearings. That is one out of five judges who do not judge. Twenty percent of the judges on the SSA's payroll do not conduct hearings. Some judges are allowed to carry a reduced work load. An an example, judges who are union representatives are not counted as full judges. They are counted as one fourth of a judge. If the average full-time judge is required to publish 60 decisions per month, then ALJs who are union representatives are only required to publish 12 to 15 decisions per month. All ALJs earn between $164,000.00 and $169,000.00 per year. That works out to roughly between $14,500.00 and $16,000.00 per month to decide 12 to 15 cases. That translates to loosely $1,250.00 per decision per month. Some of these judges, paralegals, and legal secretaries once took their comfortable life-styles for granted, but not anymore. All of that has changed, since Lisa de Soto and Judge Frank Cristaudo started forcing judges into retirement. All of this has occurred at the same time as the American economy has taken a steep downturn. Judges have lost homes and families. Many judges, lawyers, paralegals, administrative staff workers are finding out what it is like to be without a job. Many for the first time in their lives cannot find any work. To make matters worse, most of them are old people. They are loosing their jobs, homes, cars, cell phones, health insurance, and middle-class life styles never to be regained. At their ages no one will hire them. Summer vacations and having dinner out have become distant memories. Age makes it more difficult to find a job. People who did everything right professionally have reached old age and find themselves on the verge of destitution. Middle level managers and accountants can not get interviews at McDonald's for a job as a cashier. Long years of experience are no longer an asset. The job skills that older workers have acquired are no longer needed in today's job market. Employers today are looking for younger workers without health problems and who know how to use the many word-processing programs used to produce legal documents and client letters. You may not feel old, but Social security Regulations define who is an old person. Because of a vigorous and healthy life style, you might feel much younger than you are. Your chronological age could be 55, and your friends might flatter you by saying 55 today is the new 45. However, government and business managers have regulations that tell them whether you are an old person. According to those regulations, if you are age 55 or older, then you are an old person. You will not be considered approaching retirement age until you are 62. Many Americans will not have a job after age 55. The American middle class has suffered a direct hit buy this recession. Social Security retirement benefits have become the number one retirement plan in America. Those under age 62 who are too young to collect retirement benefits are applying for Social Security Disability Benefits in record numbers. The waiting time for a disability case to be decided may be as long as five years. In that period of time families have lost their homes, small business owners have lost their businesses, and ended up living on the streets using credit cards to buy food. Depression and anxiety are at an epidemic level. The Obama Administration bailed out Wall street, but not main street. Bankers and Wall Street traders are feeling no pain. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said that he feels the pain of the older aged workers, who represent about 41 percent of the 12.8 million unemployed workers. Many of the chronic unemployed older people have given up and stopped looking for work. Their job skills have atrophied. Their business contacts have dried up. They have lost their homes and cannot afford descent apartments based on their Social Security Benefits and Food Stamp payments. As they struggle to survive on food stamps, credit cards and Social Security, without cars or cell phones, these older unemployed former middle-class workers are losing their dignity and some are even committing suicide. Jane Durant is a 57 year old legal secretary at a large law firm in Pennsylvania. After spending 10 years at a smaller law firm, she took a job at a larger firm 11 years ago. In 2009 she was laid off when her law firm underwent a large reduction in force (RIF). Today she is still unemployed. She has exhausted her severance package, used up 99 weeks of unemployment benefits, and has been forced to dip into her retirement funds. She has cut back to one meal a day and has applied for food stamps. Her food stamp application was refused because she still had a small savings account. After 60 job interviews and no offers of even part-time work, she believes she is a victim of age discrimination. Claude Davis was a California attorney living the good life trading up in real estate, going from a smaller house to a larger one. He was riding the real estate bubble. He bought his last house for over a million dollars with no money down and no interest with an adjustable rate mortgage for the first five years. At the end of five years he would be facing a large balloon payment that would come due. This was not the first time he had purchased a home under these terms. As long as he was working he expected to be able to come up with the cash. He never expected to lose his job. He thought that legal jobs were recession proof. Then the unexpected happened. He was terminated. For a while he managed to get by doing small contracts and by dipping into his retirement funds. When the balloon mortgage payment came due, he was not able to make the payment. He lost his house and his middle class life style. He thinks he will never be able to get another legal job like his last one because he can no longer work the 12 to 14 hour days that are required to get ahead in most law firms. Younger more recent law school graduates are grabbing all the starting legal jobs. Claude Davis is 55 and he believes that he also is a victim of age discrimination. Their misfortune has broader consequences for society as a whole as well as for America's standing in the world. These former lawyers, administrative law judges, paralegals, corporate executives, and small business owners who are struggling to survive in this hostile economy may be the canaries in the coal mine for America. Their social and economic conditions will have broader and more far-reaching consequences for America and could signal that we are slipping into a welfare society and a less prestigious nation.