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Age Discrimination Leads To Termination – Part I of IV

November 11th, 2008

This was going to be a 3 part post, but I just reread it and decided to make it 4 parts.  Today’s is the LONGEST, as it is the story (yesterday I introduced the idea).  I’m starting with the very last thing this person wrote:

Finally, JibberJobber is a tool: use it. Recognize what it is telling you. You are alone in your life raft. But you don’t have to be. Reach out and form real connections. Social networking is NOT LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites. It’s tying someone else’s lifeboat to yours and paddling together. Wish I was better at it.

One Man’s Story
Age Discrimination in Modern Corporation
A warning to defend yourself

No secret. I’m an Old Guy.

I started my career in The Telephone Company. Judge Green. RIFed generously. Went to Wall Street; made nice money. Own businesses. Bounced around. Recognized the changing paradigms of “employment”. And coasted into “old age” by landing my “Last Job” (I saw the “Last Lecture” video. Stole the concept!) at another big company for my transition into my “golden years”. Got sacked by age discrimination. Saw it coming. But, was powerless to stop it.

This blog post is your wake up call. You maybe somewhere on the wrong side of an age that ends in a five or a zero. “It’s going to happen to you” you think. You need to adjust your thinking so that when it does, you’re ready for it. I wasn’t. It’s happening to you, silently; every
day you put foot to floor, it puts one more thread to your anchor.

We all know that there is age discrimination in hiring. Hair dye, functional resumes, and dropping graduation years from school are all symptoms. You can’t hide it. Career counselors urge your to turn a negative into a positive. Ever try to keep water out of a hole on the
beach? You have to acknowledge how pervasive it is. I think I have some coping strategies; nothing to stop or prevent it. But surviving it!

I was 57 when I came to my Last Company by selling myself into it. I found a strategic structural Information Technology Customer-impacting problem, and sold myself as a “fixer of it”. Pushed aggressively. I knew that there was age discrimination out there, but, despite being
relatively financially OK, I wasn’t OK enough to go 8 years without a paycheck until SocSec and Pensions kicked in. I NEEDED another job to bridge the time. I selected my Last Company for a high probability that I could spend 8 years there. My salary expectations were modest;
I wanted time to bridge to retirement.

It was a really screwed up; that Last Company. Be it incompetence, stupidity, or crookedness, I arrived to find the job I had been hired for was no longer there. Reorg! It was a punch in the gut. They had something for me to do. “To help them out” while they figured out their recent reorg. I say crookedness, because I suspected, but never could prove, that they had “bait ‘n’ switched” me. If offered the job I was now doing, I wouldn’t have accepted. But, now that I was committed, what choice did I have? The offers were not exactly rolling in for this Old Guy. I knew there was age discrimination out there. Remembering I was looking for a bridge, not a career, or a
stepping stone, I shut up and buckled down.

As a footnote, the problem I sold into to solve, I got fixed in about six weeks in my spare time.

I milked that interim job for three plus years. And did a lot of “stuff”. Then, they had another bloody reorg. My boss, naive in the ways of corporate politics, took care of himself, getting what he wanted, and, inadvertently, threw all his seven people, under the bus.
When the reorg smoke cleared, the other six were “pink slipped”. They were all younger than me. They had families to care for, lives to lead, and ambitions to fulfill. So they moved on. All I wanted was to walk the rest of my bridge.

As  a footnote, I’ve talked to that fellow many times, and I think he was honestly fooled by the words in reorg talk. I think he felt bad. But, not too bad, he was happy with what he got. It wasn’t him under the bus. I was the lone hold out.

Remembering my goal was a “bridge”. I sucked it up and endured. Bungee managers, “insults”, and poor treatment. I was crossing my “bridge”.

Then, after yet another reorg, I could sense a change in the wind. All the deadwood was gathered up under a new meaningless title. Org charts were produced. Promises made.

It was a plain on the nose on your face. I was “hanging out” in the wind.

One promise was that all the surplus would get first priority to interview for all positions. Lie! There were other lies and betrayals, but that was the first and biggest!

A job, “perfect for me”, was filled, without them following their own process, without me even getting a courtesy interview, by a younger woman. She moved into my old office, as I sat in a cube outside it.

My warning bells went off.

I began documenting each slight, each failure to follow process, each pass over. It became a body of evidence. I kept “my doomsday file” in my car. I documented each age-related departure.

It was obvious.

Finally, my time came. My then boss called me to a “meeting” in a different part of the building. It was supposed to be a “one on one”. There was another woman there. HR. “Position eliminated”! I knew what it was. Be there, done that, had the t-shirt. I signed nothing and
gave them notice of my intent to sue.

I went from there, escorted out of the building like a thief, to my lawyer. Stopped on the way home.  (Remember my file? It was in my car for a reason!)

A flurry of activity to bring the lawyer up to speed. He thinks I have a credible claim. (What lawyer being paid wouldn’t say that?) I don’t want a fight. I want those three years.

We’ll see if that lawyer can get it for me?

So, don’t’ cry for me (Argentina?). I write this for you to be warned. Like Marley warning Ebeneezer, I hope you hear my chains, my pain, and my strain. And, be afraid. Be very afraid. Here’s my impression of Dickens and hopefully I’ll scare your into action. I’ll send you three
Spirits that will each have three suggestions. Marley sent: Past, Present, and Future. I’ll send: Strategies, Tactics, and Learnings.

The followup posts this week are:

  • Strategies to fight (or prepare for) Age Discrimination (Wednesday)
  • Tactics (Thursday)
  • Lessons Learned (Friday)

Feel free to share your age discrimination story in the comments.

10 Comments »

10 responses to “Age Discrimination Leads To Termination – Part I of IV”

  1. […] Some sobering thoughts (and coming action items) from Jibber Jobber and Age Discrimination Leads to Termination. […]

  2. […] is Part II in a four part series.  Read the original story here.  Our RIF’d (reduction in force – another way of saying “laid off”) friend […]

  3. […] third part of age discrimination week… the first part was the story, the second part was strategies, today is tactics: […]

  4. Susan says:

    My husband was a part of a downsize. He is middle managment and has more year of experience than anyone in his position. They did not lay him off, but they have put him in a clerical position, they did not cut his salary but he will loose his car and insurance. His bonus will probably be illiminated. After 30 years in this business and all his hard work, this is more than a slap in the face. He is required to train for the position out of state for 3 weeks. This is a huge burden on all of us. There were 4 out of 8 managers they passed over. All over 50 and all with allot more experience than the ones they are keeping and promoting. There is a good chance that the new position will eventually be illiminated and even a greater chance that at some point there income will be cut. Just loosing the car and bonus is a huge cut in pay. Is there anything he can do? He feels at 59 he will never find a new job. He needed 5 more years to keep his insurance after retirement.

  5. Jill Pugh says:

    I’ve been practicing employment law for fifteen years, and this story is unfortunately very very familiar to me. Only, this author is one big step ahead of a lot of folks who contact me – he has that file he’s been keeping in his car. My time in practice has covered more than one slow economy and I see time and again that RIFs and “reorgs” are often used as an excuse to cover discrimination, age and other categories. It is a tougher case to prove because the company often can point to valid economic reasons for the termination, but if you dig deeper you’ll often see that the chosen target didn’t make the most business sense. I hope this is a wake up call for many, and I look forward to reading the other posts.

    Jill Pugh
    http://www.EmploymentLawWA.com

  6. Bill Vineyard says:

    I can vouch for your contention that discrimination is alive and well. On December 19th, I along with 20 other salary personnel was terminated (excuse me, reorganized). Funny thing is that all of us were over 40 (myself and several others were over 62. I had (as did many others) over 33 years with this unit (under different names). We built this plant and were constantly being sought out for help in solving problems or mentoring younger people. Seems like when the opportunity to get rid of some people (excuse me, downsize for economic reasons), the most knowledgable and typically sought after people (not to mention older) were the ones who got the axe. It sadens me to see the direction our country is taking and I am very concerned for the younger generation and their work ethics as well as the corporation greed that runs rampat. The so called experts say we are becoming a service economy, well excuse me, but someone has to have a manufacturing job to pay for those services, everyone can’t work at McDonalds! My opinion (everybody has at least one) is that we are to blame for our sad state. When only 1 out of 4 people vote (and very few of those do any homework on the candidates), we get what we have always gotten, legislators that tell us whats best for us while they fatten their wallets. I spent over 26 years in our military defending peoples freedom and right to vote and it makes me very angry when someone says “I don’t vote because it doesn’t make any difference”. I would like to take them to Pearl Harbor, or one of the hundreds of vetrerans graveyards or the Vietnam wall (and show they some personal brothers of mine’s names engraved there) and ask them to repeat that comment to those who made the untimate sacrifice. Until the people of this country wake up and take it back (morally and responsibly), we will continue down the slippery slope to ruin. Sorry, I tend to get carried away when I think about our beloved country and some of the people who enjoy its freedoms yet curse it with every breath.

  7. Rae says:

    I am facing the similar happenings at my work place. I am a paralegal in a department with 2 other paralegals, 9 attorneys, 5 are partners, the rest associates, and several secretaries. I have about 15 years of experience, working for this firm for 3 years. For the first two years I was extremely busy and I was doing work that I enjoyed. The attorneys, one in particular, were difficult, however, I just ignored most of the pettiness, did my work, and did not let the meaness get me down or keep me from doing a good job. We have yearly reviews, and mine were fair, no big complaints. Last year I was given a 5% raise and told that it was among the highest because I had exceeded the billable hour goals. Beginning in 2008 however, work slowed down extemely. I was not given files very often, and spent most of the year running around asking for work. I was able to keep somewhat busy most days, but was about 100 hours under the billable hour goal by the end of the year. I also noticed that after I asked for work and was told there was none, a new file was given on two occasions, to one of the other younger paralegals. I am 64, she is probably 40. She had been on maternity leave and returned in October. I went to HR and asked if they knew what was going on. I said I was concerned I was not getting work, told to go look in other departmens because there was none in our department, and then another person got the work. I commented that maybe it was an age thing. The HR person got all excited about my age remark, wanted to know if anyone had said anything, or written anything that indicates they were discriminating against me. I said of course not. She said she would check around. Ultimately, she said she had to do a formal investigation into my concern about age discrimination. I told her that is not what I wanted as I have no proof. But she went ahead anyway, talked to all the attorneys and of course they said absolutely not. The HR person said the overall concensus was that I was a very nice person, but I was too slow, asked too many questions, and needed more “handholding” than the other paralegals that is why they preferred to give work to them. I told the HR person that this is the first I have ever heard about those concerns. I have never missed a deadline, never been told I was billing too many hours for a certain project…nothing, zip, zero has ever been said to me in 3 years except now. She told me they could not retaliate against me this investigation taking place. (yeah sure). I asked her to tell me the bottom line, was I still going to have a job in the near future. She said she didn’t know, said she was turning “it” over to the managing partner and they would let me know. She said she did not even know who was going to do my review …which take place at this time of the year. (So far I have not been scheduled for a review, but the other two paralegals have) The HR person said someone would let me know. I am waiting everyday for a tap on the shoulder saying I no longer have a job. If they “lay” me off now I think they will say it is for economic reasons, but it is very fishy that this comes after my expressing a concern about age discrimination (I did not want the investigation…what are they going to say..yeah we would rather have the young cute one than the old bitty? I don’t think so…) I have been saving every e-mail for 3 years both with any criticsm or praise and sending it home so I would have it. ( they are very critical and I am not absolutely perfect, …but I have not ever missed a deadline, or been told Iwas slow until now)I am thinking of talking to an attorney about what to do next. If they lay me off, I do not want them bashing me. I need another year to get to medicare. I am looking for another job.

  8. I recently blogged about this topic and some new issues relating to age discrimination in which even younger workers are falling victim to employers attempting to sidestep lawsuit.
    Check out my blog here:
    http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2009/06/30/new-issues-with-old-discrimination/

  9. Kathy Kensmoe says:

    Being an election year, I find it odd and ironic that lawmakers will not PUBLICLY ADDRESS the issue of age discrimination among the thousands of baby-boomers looking for work, since it has reached an epidemic level.

    Older workers age 45-64 (who have been terminated) are in shock and awe because nothing is being done about the problem. Many have blatant stories about “phony performance issues”, or being reduced to “worthlessness” before getting the axe.

    In letters to my congressman and senator (in 2010) I proposed bringing public attention to company EEO reports so HR departments would know they were UNDER THE MICROSCOPE and that the issue was in the media and “out-in-the-open”. If companies knew their reports were under closer scrutiny, they might be less apt to discriminate. Why should boomers be ABANDONED by the very lawmakers they’ve elected? Maybe out-of-work baby-boomers should just not vote this year…

    It seems like an oxy-moron that boomers (age 62) are FORCED into early retirement while Social Security is nearing the brink of collapse! Shouldn’t there be an emphasis encouraging companies to retain older workers who could work into their 70’s (if possible)? Most boomers I know would rather accept a pay reduction vs. being terminated and put out to pasture. Since there are millions of us, isn’t there a better solution?

    Most Boomers I know are healthy, intelligent, courteous and experienced and KNOW what makes people tick. Much more than I can say for Gen X and how assuming, entitled, and rude they sometimes are.

    As an older terminated worker, it is disheartening to think of losing my home and everything I’ve worked for because my hair has turned silver.

  10. Kate says:

    Being an election year, I find it odd and ironic that lawmakers will not PUBLICLY ADDRESS the issue of age discrimination among the thousands of baby-boomers looking for work, since it has reached an epidemic level.

    Older workers age 45-64 (who have been terminated) are in shock and awe because nothing is being done about the problem. Many have blatant stories about “phony performance issues”, or being reduced to “worthlessness” before getting the axe.

    In letters to my congressman and senator (in 2010) I proposed bringing public attention to company EEO reports so HR departments would know they were UNDER THE MICROSCOPE and that the issue was in the media and “out-in-the-open”. If companies knew their reports were under closer scrutiny, they might be less apt to discriminate. Why should boomers be ABANDONED by the very lawmakers they’ve elected? Maybe out-of-work baby-boomers should just not vote this year…

    It seems like an oxy-moron that boomers (age 62) are FORCED into early retirement while Social Security is nearing the brink of collapse! Shouldn’t there be an emphasis encouraging companies to retain older workers who could work into their 70′s (if possible)? Most boomers I know would rather accept a pay reduction vs. being terminated and put out to pasture. Since there are millions of us, isn’t there a better solution?

    Most Boomers I know are healthy, intelligent, courteous and experienced and KNOW what makes people tick. Much more than I can say for Gen X and how assuming, entitled, and rude they sometimes are.

    As an older terminated worker, it is disheartening to think of losing my home and everything I’ve worked for because my hair has turned silver.