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Old 04-17-2019, 09:57 PM   #1
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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

A reorganization at Megacorp is about to clip a 52 year-old friend. They browbeat him into signing a waiver document in return for a severance package, but he's a good 10 years away from being in position to retire.

However, management has been completely opaque about the reasons for his situation. They didn't eliminate his job, and he isn't being fired for cause; his performance reviews have been good for years. But they sidelined him and hired someone much younger to take that job. He repeatedly asked why he is getting bounced, but he's gotten stonewalled by three layers of management and the entire HR group. It's very suspicious that no one will tell him anything. I think it's because they all know they're doing something shady, perhaps illegal.

According to the regulations on the EEOC website, regardless of any waiver he signed, he is nonetheless free to file a charge of age discrimination. The facts of his case appear to be a no-brainer, although I hear stories all the time about older workers getting the axe, so I wonder if it's worth the bother of pursuing. The law may be on his side, but that doesn't mean a government agency will necessarily take up his case. Employment discrimination might be like burglary, so common it would swamp law enforcement to pursue every instance.

What would be the consequences for the douchebag management anyway? Does anyone ever go to jail for this sort of behavior, or does it merely end up with some paperwork plus a trivial fine and reinstatement of the victim? Anybody here have advice I could relay?

P.S. It's so weird that for my buddy getting the boot is a disaster, whereas if they offered me severance it would be like winning the lottery.
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Old 04-17-2019, 10:36 PM   #2
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I’m not sure how it all works, but if successful, it ends with a financial settlement. He needs to discuss with a lawyer. The question is whether the lawyer thinks the case is strong enough to win significantly more than the severance package. My mega Corp usually provided a year of salary and benefits as a max. I never knew anyone to not sign it. I think the prevailing wisdom is that the bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Plus, after suing your current employer, I’m not sure how receptive any other company will be to hire you. Of course at 50+, reemployment is a struggle no matter what.

I’d talk to a lawyer, but I think the end result is that your friend will have to find a way to move ahead, hard as that will be. No severance or court settlement is going to get him financially independent or take the pain out of what lies next - job hunting as an over 50 person. Sucks big time and I’m sorry to hear it.
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Old 04-18-2019, 03:51 AM   #3
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Yep. Someone needs to write an article/do a "20/20" about that whole situation. No shortage of potential "targets" in my opinion. One problem is that public opinion might not be sympathetic towards "wealthy" or "highly paid" late career ee's being forced out. "Problems of the rich", etc...

Better yet, write/"20-20" about the many companies that bend over backwards to hire those 50+. The good PR might do wonders for those employers.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:24 AM   #4
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Choices are to go EEOC by self, or hire lawyer to handle.

It's a weird situation in employment, and can turn on a dime.

I know I signed something to get a measly "exit package". The pressure of the moment clouds your judgment. In less than a decade at megacorp I saw various tactics performed on individuals, trying to force them out. Oh well, it's part of the game. As you age, your salary grows. We'll probably hear more as employment numbers reverse.

Good luck to the buddy.
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Old 04-18-2019, 04:52 AM   #5
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Similar thing happened to my friend; two weeks after he returned to work from a heart attack. (hmmmmmm)
They went back and forth for a bit, at first offering him a month's pay, but he eventually got a year's pay.

Sign nothing, get a lawyer. Now!
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:06 AM   #6
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Getting a lawyer would be a good idea. If he’s not willing to do that, at least call the EEOC and ask their advice NOW. Theses cases are never easy.
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Old 04-18-2019, 05:24 AM   #7
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Getting a lawyer would be a good idea. If he’s not willing to do that, at least call the EEOC and ask their advice NOW. Theses cases are never easy.
If he's not willing to get a lawyer, well......maybe he likes being a victim, or... maybe there's more to the story (?)

I would expect a gov't agency is going to be a lot less interested in his case than someone I'm paying (and who has a stake in my success).

From personal experience as a former senior exec, the minute an employee says "lawyer" everyone gets considerably more focused.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:00 AM   #8
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If he's not willing to get a lawyer, well......maybe he likes being a victim, or... maybe there's more to the story (?)

I would expect a gov't agency is going to be a lot less interested in his case than someone I'm paying (and who has a stake in my success).

From personal experience as a former senior exec, the minute an employee says "lawyer" everyone gets considerably more focused.
I agree. But he hasn’t already, so I thought he might be hesitant for some reason, that’s why I said at least call the EEOC and ask their advice. Just asking a friend to ask around (here) isn’t going to accomplish anything. I was on the receiving end of two EEOC complaints, both completely unfounded and dismissed - I know how it works...
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:10 AM   #9
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A) of course he needs to talk to a lawyer - and a good one who specializes in employment matters

B) there is more to this story. Either he's not hearing it or not telling you out of embarrassment. But if I was being let go without at least some made up reason that had an ounce of sense, I would not leave the room or sign anything. Who would?

This is a MC, not some little outfit right? They know how to play by the rules and at very least create a semblance of a reason. It's not that hard to get rid of low hanging fruit and play by the rules when MC's want to. Just takes a little time. Since you mention there is a Re-Org, there's something in those terms that includes him.

And I don't buy the "browbeat" into signing the severance agreement. That's standard fare - sign, get paid, or not. It's always take it or leave it, and you give up your rights to sue if you take it. That's how it works everywhere.
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Old 04-18-2019, 06:30 AM   #10
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I may be wrong, but I think it naive to believe the EEOC is some great savior for a terminated employee, IN LIEU OF AN ATTORNEY. I'm sure if there was a pattern then the EEOC might look further. I suspect their bureaucratic approach might take too long for OP's friend to benefit (perhaps due to statute of limitations).
As others said, he needs a lawyer now. That was my approach (without signing the offered package) and was glad I did.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:35 AM   #11
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There's a whole world of stuff we didn't know existed

Thanks for all the replies so far. I had a chat with my friend this morning. His obstacle to being more assertive wasn't one of hesitancy so much as ignorance. This is an unfamiliar experience for him and up to now he hadn't really understood the territory.

When you've worked for Megacorp for decades and never been laid off (he hadn't before) there wouldn't be any need to immerse yourself in the labyrinthine regulations regarding worker protection. When you don't know what you don't know, then you don't even know what questions you should be asking. As I explained this alternative his eyes widened like dinner plates; it had never entered his mind before.

Anyway, I went through his waiver document with him today. While it has a long list of reasons for which he may not file civil lawsuits, it clearly states that his right to enter discrimination complaints with the EEOC can't be waived (which is consistent with the legislation I read).

The legislation also mentions that age discrimination can expose a perpetrator (i.e., the douchebag managers) to potential imprisonment, although I suspect it seldom gets that far. Nonetheless, my MC is run by a bunch of weenies who might crumble instantly at the slightest prospect of facing a criminal prosecution. They have a long history of backing down.

So my buddy is spending today collecting his documentation so he can file his complaint. With a little luck and a good poker face, he might find that Megacorp has altered its personnel plans and has a continuing slot for him after all. Maybe it's a long shot but it's better than no shot, which is what he had just two days ago.

BTW, not being a manager myself, I didn't know any of this legal stuff either. The more I learn, the more convinced I am that remaining a humble engineer wasn't a bad decision.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:46 AM   #12
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Unless you have DOCUMENTATION, not hearsay, not personal recollection, not a ton of "me too" witnesses (unless it is somebody in your management chain testifying "I fired John because he was old"), you do not have a prayer of proving age discrimination.


If he has documentation, by all means pursue it with the EEOC. If you don't have actual proof, a lawyer MIGHT get a better severance package but thats about it.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:47 AM   #13
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Getting a lawyer would be a good idea. If hes not willing to do that, at least call the EEOC and ask their advice NOW. Theses cases are never easy.
I agree.

It sounds like he is in a position to pay for an hour or two of an lawyer's time and find out what he doesn't know that he should know.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:48 AM   #14
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A) of course he needs to talk to a lawyer - and a good one who specializes in employment matters

B) there is more to this story. Either he's not hearing it or not telling you out of embarrassment. But if I was being let go without at least some made up reason that had an ounce of sense, I would not leave the room or sign anything. Who would?

This is a MC, not some little outfit right? They know how to play by the rules and at very least create a semblance of a reason. It's not that hard to get rid of low hanging fruit and play by the rules when MC's want to. Just takes a little time. Since you mention there is a Re-Org, there's something in those terms that includes him.

And I don't buy the "browbeat" into signing the severance agreement. That's standard fare - sign, get paid, or not. It's always take it or leave it, and you give up your rights to sue if you take it. That's how it works everywhere.
When an employee waives the right to sue a properly constructed agreement includes money for review by a lawyer before signing. Some don't take advantage of this but your friend should have done that, if he hasn't he should do that now. Back in the day, DOL enforced the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and I had a couple of interesting cases. The law requires filing a complaint with the enforcing agency (now EEOC) before initiating litigation. A competent employment lawyer will be able to know if there is a case to be made and the hoops to jump through under both State and Federal Law, that said I wouldn't put my faith in the EEOC. The reason for the complaint process is to allow EEOC to try to resolve the issue before extensive fact-finding.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:54 AM   #15
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It sounds like his goal is to keep his job. While I understand while that would be best for a lot of reasons, it’s not going to happen. Best he can do is find a way to extract the most money and benefits on the way out the door. Face it, even if they kept him on, do you really think his next review will be a good one? He’ll get beat down and eventually fired for “cause” and get nothing. Advise him to go see a lawyer.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:01 AM   #16
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Have it all on paper

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Unless you have DOCUMENTATION, not hearsay, not personal recollection, not a ton of "me too" witnesses (unless it is somebody in your management chain testifying "I fired John because he was old"), you do not have a prayer of proving age discrimination.


If he has documentation, by all means pursue it with the EEOC. If you don't have actual proof, a lawyer MIGHT get a better severance package but thats about it.
He's printing out hard copies of emails, job descriptions, performance reviews... the whole magilla. Electronic records can sometimes magically disappear.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:10 AM   #17
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Sometimes just mentioning that you would have to seek a lawyer if you were terminated is enough to change corporate's mind.

I had that happen to me. I was 1st line supervisor and was told that one of my reports were in HR being RIF'd as we speak. I was to watch out for any strange repercussions that might occur after the mtg. Later, he returned to his work area and just kept on working. I asked my boss and was told that he threatened an age discrimination suit. They ended up rescinding his termination plans and terminated a younger worker that day.

I've been there too. I didn't sign anything and sent the documents to my lawyer. He thought there was possibly a case to be made for age discrimination. But it was a closing of the office as a whole, not selective employees. I eventually signed and left.

It is a tough situation to be in. I hope he comes away without being too hurt. Finding a new job at that age is not easy without knowing a powerful insider in a new company.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:38 AM   #18
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What state is he in? Some states have additional statutes that prohibit age discrimination, and he should file a complaint there as well as with the EEOC. The state may be able to move faster than the EEOC. Also, if this is a corp that does business in multiple states and is headquartered in some other state, there's at least some chance that they are actually violating his state's law without knowing it.

It's very unlikely that they are violating the federal law, or that if they are, they'll be caught at it. His best argument is that they hired someone younger from outside the company for a lower salary to perform the same exact work he was previously doing. If there's anything even slightly different in the new guy's job, like if he's doing parts of what were previously two jobs, or if he has a license or qualification that your friend doesn't, then this is just normal restructuring and they're allowed to do that.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:46 AM   #19
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Now is the time for your friend not only to make copies of all of his performance-related appraisals, job description (which in my opinion is useless but many don't agree with me) but also contact information for all in his network. Take that off-site today, trust no one, don't leave it on your computer. He needs to start networking immediately.

There are programs that some large employers offer to assist severed employees to find employment, particularly because many haven't engaged in a job search for years. Resume writing, posting on LinkedIn, how applicant screening operates in the computer age. Frankly, the best result comes from introductions through your network, not 'blind' applying for jobs posted on the internet. The consultant's value is how to prepare a resume for a specific opportunity that you have learned of through YOUR networking. I have known an employer who was going through a large RIF to work with employers who may have a need for the skill sets they are reducing. Specifically, I recall a Boeing RIF where the recruiters for my then employer needed IT staff.

On the positive side, unemployment is low and employees released early in a restructuring process are, statistically, more successful in finding good employment opportunities.
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Old 04-18-2019, 10:59 AM   #20
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He's printing out hard copies of emails, job descriptions, performance reviews... the whole magilla. Electronic records can sometimes magically disappear.

His own good performance reviews and atta-boy emails don't mean anything. The company will just say "we're cutting back even if it means letting good people go".
He has to show documentation he was performing better in the same job description than a peer who was not fired. Documenting just-as-good-as-peers = "it was a coin toss and that is not discrimination".
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