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Age Discrimination at Work
Old 06-05-2007, 03:54 AM   #1
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Age Discrimination at Work

Has anyone experienced age discrimination at work? It could be subtle or it could be a concerted effort by the company.

For example: I know of a company that squeezes out older employees. Essentially, they offer an ER package or some severance. At the same time (or earlier) they down grade the rating of older employees (perf rating). The implication is take the ER package or get squeezed later. Of course, the people that can't afford to take the package get put through hell.

If one takes the package, the company has the employee sign an agreement to waive their ability to file an age discrimination law suit under EEOC.
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Old 06-05-2007, 06:50 AM   #2
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Where I worked it was so pervasive, it was part of the culture, but subtle enough that it was tough to sue unless based on broader statistics. Ironically once you start being treated as a low performer, you start to believe it yourself and it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. For me, one of the worst aspects of work in my last few years.
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Old 06-05-2007, 06:55 AM   #3
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Sure, and I work for the feds. Promotions go to the younger scientists who are assumed to have a long career path with the agency. Older scientists are assumed to be on the verge of retirement and just padding out their annuity. This has been publicly stated over and over by certain supervisors (which is probably not the smartest thing to have said).

Interestingly, the younger scientists that I have seen enter our group seem to actually have a shorter career path with the agency, despite predictions, promotions, and so on. They use the promotions as a stepping stone.
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:51 AM   #4
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I'd say yes. Working in fashion, there aren't a lot of people working above a certain age. It depends on the company, a young company may be almost entirely 20-30 somethings. An older fashion company may be a bit more flexible & employ 40-50 somethings. To my knowledge, I don't know anyone abouve say 55 that isn't fairly high up (like a CEO type person).
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Old 06-05-2007, 12:07 PM   #5
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My whole working life was spent in the oil industry. And the closer that I got to "normal" retirement age, the less responsibility I was given, along with the fact that promotions started going to younger employees who had more "future" left to spend with the company. It was all very quietly and effectively done so that lawsuits didn't stand a chance of succeeding against the company.

When I was not-so-gently pushed out the door at 58, I was given a nice severance package that left me with two choices: not sign an age-discrimination legal release and take the cash payment offered OR sign a legal release and take a cash settlement of more than twice that amount. I didn't figure that I would ever sue anyway or that I would win more than the higher offer, so I signed.

But, yes, age discrimination is out there; it's just hidden and not talked about in the way that racial or sex discrimination is talked about.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:18 PM   #6
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I've been subject to the revere of what you are thinking of. In past positions, I have been at least as capable as most of the more senior analysts, but I didn't "look the part" (not enough gray at my temples), so I was stuck killing time at a junior position.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:22 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chinaco View Post
For example: I know of a company that squeezes out older employees. Essentially, they offer an ER package or some severance. At the same time (or earlier) they down grade the rating of older employees (perf rating).
I don't have your level of knowledge of the details, but to an outsider (or to a judge/arbiter) it would also look like:
1. Older employees are the only ones qualified for early-retirement packages, and
2. Marginal employees are being bought off with ER packages that are perceived to be cheaper than fixing the performance problem.

In other words a performance problem is being labeled as age discrimination.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:33 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I don't have your level of knowledge of the details, but to an outsider (or to a judge/arbiter) it would also look like:
1. Older employees are the only ones qualified for early-retirement packages, and
2. Marginal employees are being bought off with ER packages that are perceived to be cheaper than fixing the performance problem.

In other words a performance problem is being labeled as age discrimination.
That's true in lots of cases, Nords. In my own, however, I aced every annual review that I ever had and received at lease two four-to-five-figure cash bonuses a year for the last 10 years. When 300 of us were released on the same morning, I would estimate that the average age released was at least 50. We were spoken to in groups of 12 that morning, and in my particular group I was just above average aged at 58. In my estimation, it all has as much to do with capping pension costs on that age group and doing the same for medical costs. My company was self-insured and anyone under 55 when released was not eligible for benefits after 6-months. That eliminated a group of people whose medical costs were starting to rise. Of course, also, older employees are generally paid more than their younger counterparts simply because of longevity and how their salaries have compounded over the years. It is always a good thing for a company's bottom line to eliminate one older employee because they can hire at least 1 1/2 replacements for him at the same money.

I do agree that some problem employees were included in the bunch, but that was an added bonus to the company, and not the only way that candidates for layoff were identified.
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:38 PM   #9
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Where I worked it was so pervasive, it was part of the culture, but subtle enough that it was tough to sue unless based on broader statistics. Ironically once you start being treated as a low performer, you start to believe it yourself and it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. For me, one of the worst aspects of work in my last few years.
It only affect you if you let it....

I just look at it that they are still paying me a higher salary to do less work... it is their problem, not mine...

And there is not much I can do about it as they want all the 'bosses' to be in NY/NJ, so out in the hinterland... we are just scum...
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Old 06-05-2007, 01:40 PM   #10
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Sure, and I work for the feds. Promotions go to the younger scientists who are assumed to have a long career path with the agency. Older scientists are assumed to be on the verge of retirement and just padding out their annuity. This has been publicly stated over and over by certain supervisors (which is probably not the smartest thing to have said).

Interestingly, the younger scientists that I have seen enter our group seem to actually have a shorter career path with the agency, despite predictions, promotions, and so on. They use the promotions as a stepping stone.

I did not think that the Fed had to obey that law... I thought they had exempted themselves.... but I could be wrong..
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Old 06-05-2007, 02:05 PM   #11
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I haven't seen it here, in my Financial Services Mega-Corp. When people get pushed out, it is usually for reason.
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Old 06-05-2007, 05:00 PM   #12
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I did not think that the Fed had to obey that law... I thought they had exempted themselves.... but I could be wrong..
https://www.opm.gov/ovrsight/proidx.asp
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Old 06-05-2007, 05:04 PM   #13
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Verrrry much ingrained in the corporate culture of my old megacorp.

Big promos went to the kid who worked 90 hours a week and was perceived as a "go getter". Bupkus to the 50-something guy with a lot of experience that laid out the plans or had the ideas without which the 20-something wouldnt have accomplished much.

Whole annual appraisal/review process was slanted towards younger employees.
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Old 06-05-2007, 06:52 PM   #14
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I don't have your level of knowledge of the details, but to an outsider (or to a judge/arbiter) it would also look like:
1. Older employees are the only ones qualified for early-retirement packages, and
2. Marginal employees are being bought off with ER packages that are perceived to be cheaper than fixing the performance problem.

In other words a performance problem is being labeled as age discrimination.
Possibly in some cases.

I believe the most prevalent rationalization is:

1) They believe older personnel are less flexible and adaptable... less driven.
2) Older personnel (with more time with the company) are more expensive along several dimensions. Getting rid of them and hiring a younger employee is less expensive and will preform better because of item 1.
3) Older personnel in some fields/jobs have less education (on average) than a younger employee today. This is true in many areas. The perception is out with the old and in with the new and improved.

Unfortunately, those caught up in this have spent the better parts of their work life dedicated to the organization. When they are less marketable (older) the company cuts them off at the knees.

Many large companies have figured out how to legally work the age discrimination angle.

Many corporations hire legal firms that specialize in "how to" approaches that will make it "legal".

I know someone that is experiencing such a situation.

I am happy to say that my company is age friendly. They not only have many older employees that retire from there... They will happily hire older employees. They are also great about finding another internal job for long-time employees if their original job goes away.
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Old 06-05-2007, 07:46 PM   #15
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I don't have your level of knowledge of the details, but to an outsider (or to a judge/arbiter) it would also look like:
1. Older employees are the only ones qualified for early-retirement packages, and
2. Marginal employees are being bought off with ER packages that are perceived to be cheaper than fixing the performance problem.

In other words a performance problem is being labeled as age discrimination.
It is true that senior employees are most likely to receive a nice severance package because they have (usually) both base pay and years of service in the calculation.

Now, down to the release... Actually they MAY only have value in private litigation. As was the issue with the recent case the Supremes just ruled on there is a time-frame for filing a charge with EEOC. That doesn't in any way prevent a former employee who received the package from having a talk with EEOC about those who remained.

Enforcement of ADEA was taken from DOL and given to EEOC so I can't comment about the current enforcement practices. However, I know for a fact that DOL nailed a couple large employers for just this type of older employee shuttle, a defense contractor in the 70's comes to mind. Once they have someone who knows how the system is working it is much easier to develop a systemic case. Been there, done that, taught age & equal pay investigation techniques at DOL. My opening salvo would be a regression analysis to look for correlations between age, performance evaluations.
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Old 06-05-2007, 09:31 PM   #16
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I just wish NJ would get rid of their old dust! People who have reached retirement age/years should take their cushy pensions so we can hire new blood! I'll leave happily at that point!!! Why can't they!? There is a 75 year old person in the same job title as I have (albeit in a different office) - who has the age/tenure to leave...but is still employed, even though "out on medical" at least half the year! Grrrrrr! Not fair, or what the discrimination laws were designed for.
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Old 06-05-2007, 09:54 PM   #17
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I have a friend who works for a large defense contractor and she tells me about all these kids fresh out of grad school with their MBAs expecting six-figures, a directorship and a corner office. I am sure that they would like to see everyone over 30 retired.
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Old 06-05-2007, 09:59 PM   #18
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I don't want their jobs...just want the hiring freeze to be over so my vets (customers) can have a tug at the trough!
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Old 06-05-2007, 10:47 PM   #19
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Old 06-06-2007, 03:56 AM   #20
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It is true that senior employees are most likely to receive a nice severance package because they have (usually) both base pay and years of service in the calculation.

Now, down to the release... Actually they MAY only have value in private litigation. As was the issue with the recent case the Supremes just ruled on there is a time-frame for filing a charge with EEOC. That doesn't in any way prevent a former employee who received the package from having a talk with EEOC about those who remained.

Enforcement of ADEA was taken from DOL and given to EEOC so I can't comment about the current enforcement practices. However, I know for a fact that DOL nailed a couple large employers for just this type of older employee shuttle, a defense contractor in the 70's comes to mind. Once they have someone who knows how the system is working it is much easier to develop a systemic case. Been there, done that, taught age & equal pay investigation techniques at DOL. My opening salvo would be a regression analysis to look for correlations between age, performance evaluations.
Is this the approach of showing that the companies actions cause "Disparate Impact" on a particular class of workers?

It appears to me that it also has the potential to setup (or foster) a Hostile Work Environment since management's real goals are
  • To move the older workers out to cut cost and get a younger worker with lower wages and benes. This particular one is a Business Unit and department hot button for Upper and Middle management. IF the package is offered and not taken, they think the person is being unreasonable... naturaly the dead wood should be grateful they were offered anything. If it is not taken, then the older person wants to fight it... Management rationalizes the strong arm tactics.
  • Older workers have a memory of what does not work (tried and failed) therefore less enthusiastic about trying the latest and greatest management fad.
  • Older workers in many jobs today have less education. Just a numbers thing... today more people have BS/BA and MS/MA degrees. Ironically due to the same older worker helping to pay for their children to acquire a College degree.
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