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Being forced into retirement
Old 06-23-2013, 08:06 AM   #1
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Being forced into retirement

A friend of mine feels like he may be forced out of the position he now holds and into an early retirement he does not want. Although he has 22 years of seniority and could retire if he so desires, he wants to stay longer, say three more years, to build up his retirement fund. Shy of being fired for some trumped up reason, can companies force you out just because you are vested in the retirement program? He's 50 years old so could this be age discrimination? He's thinking about getting an attorney.
Thought I'd check here for some thoughts on the matter and if anyone has first hand info on the subject.
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:11 AM   #2
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A friend of mine feels like he may be forced out of the position he now holds and into an early retirement he does not want. Although he has 22 years of seniority and could retire if he so desires, he wants to stay longer, say three more years, to build up his retirement fund. Shy of being fired for some trumped up reason, can companies force you out just because you are vested in the retirement program? He's 50 years old so could this be age discrimination? He's thinking about getting an attorney.
Thought I'd check here for some thoughts on the matter and if anyone has first hand info on the subject.
Those accusations are historically difficult to prove. Can your friend do that?
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:15 AM   #3
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It may depend on the laws in his state but no you can't lay someone off because they are 50 yrs old and/or vested in their retirement program. However, it's not too hard to find a more legitimate reason to lay someone off. At my former workplace, he would generally file an employee grievance which would get him a hearing to further discuss the situation. I was an employee grievance officer on a layoff case. The laid off employee was represented by a lawyer. Our courts wanted the employee to exhaust all remedies before considering a case like this.
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Old 06-23-2013, 09:35 AM   #4
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Company HR departments generally know the problems with terminating protected employees. Being vested in a company pension, or being only days away from being vested, are not protected classes. Being older (over 40) is a protected class, so although they cannot directly layoff an older employee just for being older, they can be laid off for any non-age related reason. Lack of work, terminating specific projects, or sudden and unprecedented drop in employee performance are the usual reason given. Your friend should be on the lookout for a poor performance review, unusual requests for vague or impossible tasks, or shifting deadlines that cannot be met. HR likes a paper trail that documents performance issues when dealing with otherwise protected classes of employees.
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Old 06-23-2013, 12:18 PM   #5
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A company has bureaucratic ways of encouraging someone out the door. Corporate incentives can be positive (ER incentive packages) or negative (undesirable assignments, pay cuts, etc.). At what point these incentives become 'forcing someone out' can become a matter of perception. Whether or not to spend time & treasure to fight an organization that wants you out is, of course, becomes a personal decision.
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Old 06-23-2013, 12:27 PM   #6
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A friend of mine feels like he may be forced out of the position he now holds and into an early retirement he does not want. Although he has 22 years of seniority and could retire if he so desires, he wants to stay longer, say three more years, to build up his retirement fund. Shy of being fired for some trumped up reason, can companies force you out just because you are vested in the retirement program? He's 50 years old so could this be age discrimination? He's thinking about getting an attorney.
Thought I'd check here for some thoughts on the matter and if anyone has first hand info on the subject.
If your friend is employed by a company of any size, it's extremely doubtful he'll be able to prove any legal violation on their part. HR departments are well tuned into what it takes to move someone out without legal consequenses and often employ consultants specializing in this to double check. Still, he can probably get a free or cheap initial consultation from an attorney specializing in these things to make sure.

Employers have a lot of discretion in terms of how many employees they want to have, what skill sets they need to have, where they will be located, etc., etc.

People are "forced out" of companies with great regularity.
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Old 06-23-2013, 12:41 PM   #7
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If they don't want your friend, they will find a way to get rid of him. They are under no obligation to continue to employ him if they don't want to. However, they do have legal obligations to follow the correct process (e.g. document progressive discipline if they are trying to fire him for just cause) and to pay the severance he is owed. If they try to cut those corners, that may be construed as constructive dismissal, and that is where an employment lawyer may be very helpful.
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Old 06-23-2013, 12:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by JOHNNIE36 View Post
A friend of mine feels like he may be forced out of the position he now holds and into an early retirement he does not want. Although he has 22 years of seniority and could retire if he so desires, he wants to stay longer, say three more years, to build up his retirement fund. Shy of being fired for some trumped up reason, can companies force you out just because you are vested in the retirement program? He's 50 years old so could this be age discrimination? He's thinking about getting an attorney.
Thought I'd check here for some thoughts on the matter and if anyone has first hand info on the subject.
So what is it that makes your friend feel this way? Have there been multiple other "older workers" who have been laid off, and then magically replaced by younger workers? Have his peers/bosses made indirect comments about cutting 'expensive' staff?

If he feels that unsure, is it possible for him to suggest going to part-time, and being able to train his eventual replacement over time? Are there other part-timers at the company? This would allow them to cut their staffing cost, while retaining his knoweldgebase, and allowing him to continue to work at some capacity to build up the nestegg somewhat. Won't be as great as full-time, but I'm more of the "bird in hand is better than rolling the dice for the 2 in the bush".

Also, if he does get laid off and tries the legal course of action, it might put a hamper on other possible employers if they ask a question about "have you been a party to any lawsuits" (don't know if this is a "forbidden" question during employment interviews or not, but if word got around from a newspaper article, it might make any possible employer shun him). If he feels that unsure about his future w/ the company, I'd suggest he polish up his resume and talk with several headhunters to see if there are any 1-3 year contract positions for firms that need a senior staffer for a limited timeframe.
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Old 06-23-2013, 01:26 PM   #9
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Megacorp regularly had reorgs, about every 3 - 5 years. Usually got rid of a lot of the 50-54 yr old group before they qualified for early benefits. The disguised it well of course, usually had a consultant design the reorg program to meet all the laws etc. They got more money and lawyers than you. Sometimes they offered incentives when they really wanted to cut large groups.
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Old 06-23-2013, 03:30 PM   #10
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This thread is a reminder why, these days, a 401k with decent match and/or a cash balance pension plan might work out better than a DB plan for folks in the private sector. Or, in Illinois, even the public sector.
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Old 06-23-2013, 04:29 PM   #11
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According to my friend, he and his boss have had some words (not good) and since my friend was up for promotion a couple times and didn't get it, the word is that the boss will not promote him under any circumstances. In fact, if the truth is known, the boss would just as soon see him leave. That's the word on the street. My friend would just like to survive three more years to build up the retirement pot. I guess only time will tell. He says it's too early to get involved with an attorney.
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Old 06-23-2013, 05:21 PM   #12
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As someone in a large company who has been through a few of these, I can tell you that big companies are very good at protecting their interests. That being said, it's a lot harder to lay off a 52 year old woman who has had decent performance reviews than a 28 year old white guy. What is it he'd realistically want? If he's being targeted for the layoff, three more years of gainful employment probably isn't a very reasonable request. The reason they can't give special treatment to this guy is they have to be careful and do the same treatment for everyone like him. Also, I suspect that future employers could somehow find out about this, and he'd be toxic.
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Old 06-23-2013, 06:53 PM   #13
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I hate to sound skeptical, but I've had many employees over the years who wanted to claim foul play when they were being targeted for layoffs, suggesting it was age discrimination. First of all, 50 years old doesn't sound very old to me. I was the CEO of my company for many years and I never hesitated to hire someone in their 50's. If the average retirement age (outside of this forum) is 65, that means the person still has 15 years to give to a company. Is anyone really thinking that a 15 year commitment is not long enough? Who stays that long in companies today anyway?

If your friend is arguing with his boss, and he has been passed over for promotions, it sounds like he is not being viewed as promotable. Why would a boss want to promote someone who argues with them all the time? Is it possible that your friend has simply become bored with the job and is now just a mediocre employee with somewhat of a lack of motivation to do anything beyond the bare minimum to get the job done? Has his attitude gone down since he first began with the company? That is generally what causes someone to stop being promoted in a company. It has not been simply the fact that a person has been aging, at least not in my experience.
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Old 06-23-2013, 11:57 PM   #14
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If the friend is an EXEMPT worker, then they can be fired for any reason at all, as they are exempt from the labor laws. In reality, it may come down to what an employer can get away with versus possible lawsuit, or trouble with their customers, like a Defense Contractor may tread more carefully to avoid raising the ire of a member of the legislative branch.

In Megacorps, I saw that age discrimination was alive and well, just relabeled. In professional positions, it is the older workers who almost always have the highest salaries. And companies start to think "if we got rid of three of THEM, we could hire seven of THOSE".

I can't remember anyone age 50 or older being hired, unless they were coming in at an upper management position, and even that was rare.
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Old 06-24-2013, 01:58 AM   #15
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According to my friend, he and his boss have had some words (not good) and since my friend was up for promotion a couple times and didn't get it, the word is that the boss will not promote him under any circumstances. In fact, if the truth is known, the boss would just as soon see him leave. That's the word on the street. My friend would just like to survive three more years to build up the retirement pot. I guess only time will tell. He says it's too early to get involved with an attorney.
I've had employees my age that I knew were never going to be promoted to the next classification. I knew that I wasn't going to get promoted either. I never asked that employees like each other. Only that the find a way to work with each other.

I sense a communication breakdown between your friend and his boss. His boss is the boss. One option may be to have an honest open talk about their conflict and to find a way to work together. As I and others have said, HR departments are very good at finding a legit way to lay someone off. However, it is still true that keeping an employee and getting them to be productive is preferable to hiring a new employee. Finding a new employee costs time and money. There may still be a way to smooth things over. Especially since he knows that he is only in it for the short term.
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Old 06-24-2013, 05:40 AM   #16
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My spouse was one of seven older people laid off within a nine month period, with only one younger person laid off laid off within that time period, and her employer hired a number of interns (some on visas) during that time period. By all accounts, from a superficial view, there was a cause of action with regard to ADEA as well as basis for visa challenges. However, the company was quite talented as confronting such charges and utilizing "employment at will" tenets adeptly to avoid such messiness. The reality is that things in our society have tilted so far away from the employee rights perspective that served as foundation for such protections that I think such protections are little more than lip service, these days.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:20 AM   #17
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Thanks for all the responses. You all have pointed out many of the same thoughts I had. I feel that the boss took a dislike to my friend after the boss was brought in from another company. My friend was the next that should have been promoted into a supervisory capacity (but not to the bosses position) according to seniority. When his promotion didn't happen, I think my friend mouthed off (not out of character for him) and the new boss thought "well, I'll show him who's running this show". Now, the fact that he will probably never be promoted, he feels as if the hand writing is on the wall. The boss probably shows his dislike for my friend and feels that he will be targeted as someone to get rid of. My friend doesn't really care anymore, just wants to finish out three more years and retire on his terms. Worried now that the boss will get rid of him sooner than he would like. I told him to lay low, keep his mouth shut, do the best he can in his job, be cordial to the boss and he might get the three years in. Time will tell.
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:17 AM   #18
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Sadly, I have bad news for your friend. A new boss coming in from the outside is NOT good news for a frustrated employee who was hoping for promotion, much less for one who mouthed off to the new boss. Maybe this can be smoothed over with a lot of visible positive work ethic and somehow getting back into favor with this boss, but the usual sequence of event is for the new boss to spend some time evaluating the new department, making lists of changes to make and then making a paper trail to eliminate old employees who are on the bad list for whatever reason, no matter how accurate. If your friend can make it a year, then there's hope to make it to three years, but a clean sweep in six months or less wouldn't be too surprising. I have seen something similar play out almost every time new management is brought in. I'm surprised your friend hasn't seen this often enough to know not to "mouth off" to new management. I wonder if that's an indication of how very stressful this work situation is.
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Old 06-24-2013, 08:29 AM   #19
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I think you gave him good advice. I was passed over for promotion a couple times in a short period (not due to a bad relationship with the boss) and my choices were to stay and keep my nose to the grindstone or seek greener pastures. I had a lot more than a 3 year time horizon so it was on to greener pastures.

Since your friend seems to be fine with staying in his current position for 3 more years he would be best to just chill, do a good job and try to get along with the new boss. The problem is that it is very hard to turn around a bad relationship with the boss.
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Old 06-25-2013, 03:04 PM   #20
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Generally it's safe to assume that employers are greedy and self-serving. They want to find and keep the employees who most contribute to the success of the enterprise. If an employee is selected for severance, you can be relatively sure that employee does not represent the best "bang for the buck" for the employer or the employer would keep him/her and remove someone else. In the long run, employers who make bad choices about who to hire, who to retain and who to remove don't survive.

Obviously, some mistakes are made. Middle managers let personal feelings or preferences get in the way of objective decisions. But the intention of employers does seem consistent: maximize the success of the enterprise by hiring and retaining the employees who will contribute the most.

I like the concept of portable pensions, health insurance separate from employment and similar because they unlock handcuffs which keep employees and employers linked when both would be well served by an uncoupling and shuffling.
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