Older Office Worker

Age Discrimination?

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I’m so mad I can hardly see straight. I’ve worked for the same company for over thirty years and today the manager tells me that while I don’t have to retire next month when I turn sixty-five, I will be transferred to a job with less responsibility, less hours, and therefore, less pay. (It’s basically an entry level, twenty hour a week job that any nincompoop could do.) She said that “the company cannot afford to keep me on full time after retirement age” and suggested I “just take my Social Security and enjoy the company pension” I have worked so hard to earned.

Talk about a kick in the gut. To put in so many years and then have them treat me like this. Besides all of that, I wasn’t planning on retiring just because I hit the magic number. I’m not ready to sit around all day doing nothing. I’m good at what I do and I have always liked my job and the people I work with.

But ever since we have had new owners, employees have been getting the short end of the stick. I know I’m not the first one around here to get this kind of a bum deal.

I told her I refused the offer but she said I didn’t have a choice. Do you know if they can do this to loyal workers?

Kicked in the Gut

Dear Reader,

I’m surprised you could even see straight enough to compose your email to me because you have every right to be angry. What an upsetting development, to have given your loyalty and hard work to a company for over thirty years and then be treated this way.

Can they do this to “loyal workers”? I wonder. Consider “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act” (ADEA) that specifically “forbids age discrimination against people who are forty or older.” I am certainly not an attorney but I do question the legality of what your employer is offering you.

You can begin to get some answers by visiting the website for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), specifically the sections that deal with age discrimination. (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm) They clearly describe the very basics of age discrimination in the workplace, as well as what options you have.

Then, I would suggest you contact your company’s  Human Resources Department of and start asking some very pointed questions. (While your manager should have cleared this proposal through HR, she may not have – it’s strikes me as being that off-base.)

Be prepared for this meeting. Write down a brief summary of your work history. Next, organize your questions and put them to paper as well. Finally, as difficult as it may be, try to keep your anger in check. I know this may be hard. Trust me, given this situation, you are entitled to your anger. But you want to be credible and believable, right? If you charge into that office in a blaze of smokin’ accusations, you will have lost ground before you even get started. As silly as it sounds, practice what you are going to the HR manager say before you ever say it. This will help you keep track of your purpose.

If you still don’t get the results you want, you may want to contact an attorney. (Please note that, as I understand it, before you can ever file an age discrimination suit, you must first file a “Charge of Discrimination” through the EEOC.) Obtaining legal counsel can be both expensive and complicated but it might end up being worth every penny you spend to have accurate information.

Finally, recognize that sadly this economy is forcing businesses to cut every corner. Good people like you are getting caught in the crossfire. Please understand. I am not making an excuse for your employer’s proposal but knowing you are not alone may help you shift your perspective to a more manageable and productive place.

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