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Older Feds Are Facing Persistent Racial and Gender Pay Disparities, the EEOC Has Found

Although the federal workforce has higher representation of people 40 and older than the private sector, men and white and Asian employees within that age group make more than women and other ethnicities.

The federal government consistently outperforms the private sector on equity for employees over the age of 40, but age discrimination and pay disparities across gender and racial lines persist, according to a new study from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The report, which examines data from fiscal 2017, found that while a greater percentage of federal workers than private sector workers are at least 40 years old and the federal workforce is generally more diverse than the private sector, older women are less represented at federal agencies than in the private sector. Compared to the private sector, where 45% of workers are men 40 and older, 57% of the federal workforce is made up of men who are at least 40 years old.

Additionally, pay disparities persist among the federal government’s 40-and-over workforce. On average, men in this age group make around $7,400 more per year than women. And white and Asian employees who are 40 or older consistently make more than their counterparts from different ethnic groups: white employees 40 and older make $91,795 annually on average; Asians in that age group make $98,607; older Latino workers make $79,945 on average; older Black feds, $77,580; and older American Indians and Alaska natives, $69,202. These disparities persist even when accounting for federal workers’ educational attainment, EEOC said.

The comparison between the federal government and the private sector is more complicated when looking at age-based equal employment opportunity complaints. Age discrimination is the basis of 31% of all discrimination complaints in the federal sector, compared to only 22% in the private sector, something that can at least partially be attributed to the higher number of employees 40 and older in government.

And while the federal government settled 20% of age-based EEO complaints, compared to only 7% for private sector employers, EEOC issued findings in more cases that originated in the private sector: 2.64% of private sector age complaints resulted in findings, compared to only 0.52% of complaints originating in federal agencies.

“While age complaints are indeed higher in the federal sector, data demonstrating that federal sector settlements are also higher while findings are lower suggest that the federal sector is more effective at resolving age discrimination complaints,” the report stated. “Despite the relative success of the federal sector with regard to EEO delivery to employees 40 and over, the $7,414 pay difference between men and women should not be ignored. Likewise, the fact that pay differences prevail between race and national origin within protected age groups despite having a college degree must be addressed.”

Additionally, the report found that agencies that have made an effort to battle perceptions of unfairness both through employee engagement and better reporting of equal employment opportunity issues generally saw fewer age discrimination complaints.

“General job satisfaction, confidence in agency leadership and perceptions of workplace inclusion, as indicated by Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results, are associated with fewer age complaints among federal agencies,” EEOC wrote. “Having an EEO director report directly to the agency head is associated with a 73% decreased likelihood of having an age complaint among agencies surveyed by OPM through the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and a 24% decreased likelihood of having an age complaint among agencies that are required to submit . . . reports to EEOC.”