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When to sue and when to just let go?
Old 01-24-2021, 07:52 AM   #21
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When to sue and when to just let go?

When do you turn 54? You can likely tap your 403b penalty free ďin the year in which you turn 55.Ē If youíll turn 55 in 2022, ideally you could hang on until January 1. If thatís out of your control, so be it.

I left a nonprofit as a manager 6 months ago and faced some rough handling by HR on the way out over their refusal to pay my bonus that my manager promised me. Six months later, Iím over them and am looking forward. That place had a horrific year, which I was glad to miss most of. You cannot fix these people, who are under financial pressures and staffing targets directly from the board, which are more important to them than you and your job as they are trying to keep theirs. Face facts and get your own plan together.

Thinking out 6 months for you, probably more importantly right now than wasting energy and money fighting them and being bitter is making a list of references for your next job search and compiling your achievements. And start looking for another job - today - if thatís what you want. Regardless, with a paid off house, a spouse who is working, access to her health insurance, and $1.7 million you will be fine, so keep telling you and your spouse that. If they let you go, you just need to power through to the other side, whether a job, consulting FIREing or a sabbatical to figure things out. Maybe visit a fee-only financial planner with your spouse to build confidence together. With no mortgage and $4K expenses, you might well be able to FIRE but you need clearer numbers and for your spouse to be on board.

Feel free to PM me if you like, as I am much the same profile as you age and asset wise, too, and I have seen this territory. Iíll share with you our assets and how I went ahead and FIREd at 54.
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Old 01-24-2021, 08:06 AM   #22
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Once your cons outweigh the pros, it's likely time to move on. At will hire/fire policies do not protect employees, and neither HR nor the EEOC are your friend. You'll need a smoking gun & witnesses who may be people you like and could put at risk (and they may not see things as you do, no matter what they may have said in the past).

I retired 4 years ago at 56 with no regrets, other than I should have pulled the plug the second I turned 55 gaining retiree medical ins. (now it is $750/ mo). Since you have medical insurance through your wife, you're in the same position DH was in when he retired at 62.
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Old 01-24-2021, 09:41 AM   #23
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You've gotten great advice so far. I was involved in a federal lawsuit (not over labor issues, over insurance payout) and I must say the experience was not one I wish to repeat. In the end, the settlement terms benefited the lawyers and court system more than the plaintiffs.

BLUF: figure out what your end goal is and what you are willing to settle for and realize you may pay a lot in time, money and stress to get that.

I learned the following:

1) Lawyers need to make a living and your case is one of many. They've probably seen it all before and have a good idea what the probability is that you will prevail. They also know most of the players in this arena and their specialty area, hence, why it is as important who your lawyer is as well as the merits of your case.

2) You will still be required to do a lot of the work gathering information to 'prove' your case.

3) It may be dragged out for years. Courts are scheduled based on judge and lawyer availabilities.

4) A large part of the game is demerits with regard to document filing deadlines and format specifications. Moreover, the courts and judicial system are woefully behind in many ways with regard to 'e-processes' so a lot of the paperwork is just that. It's slow.

5) You must be emotionally tough and resilient through the process. The other side can and will throw personal insults and/or lie in documents. If it comes down to a 'he said-she said' type of scenario, reputations and past behavior will be used to either bolster or destroy each sides' claims.

6) Fortunately for me, I did not make ad hominem attacks and merely stated the facts 'as I saw them from my perspective' which stood me well for the most part. It was very difficult as the implications of their accusations were severe if they were not retracted and not allowed to go on the public record.

7) Ergo, without documented unemotional proof that your employer has violated the labor laws for age discrimination, it may end up being a slog in the mud. You have already put them on notice with your letter and request to meet with the leadership. I would think carefully about your next steps.

8) I agree without incontrovertible proof, it is best to make them fire you or lay you off as that will probably be the best outcome you will have in this unfortunate situation. You are in great shape financially, so that should be a load off your mind. I would not waste one penny of what you've saved fighting this.

Good luck and please post back with your decision and what happened.
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Old 01-24-2021, 10:02 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by SAinMinn View Post
... I AM liked by the constituents whom I serve (and can prove it in writing) ... and that is what matters and why I went to this organization. ...
@SAinMinn I will pick at that statement a little bit: In the context of your employment situation, the fact that your clients like you does not matter at all.

Here's why: Your replacement is hypothetical. A hypothetical employee can do anything that your managers choose to project onto him/her. So they will certainly project skills sufficient to be liked by your clients, maybe even skills that will make them better liked than you are.

Originally Posted by SAinMinn View Post
... I think it's 100% true I'm not "liked by the right people"; that is spot-on....
Re internal politics, I am not surprised. The thing to remember for next time is that gently and continuously selling yourself inside the organization is critical when you are not producing something that can be measured. If you are producing something like widgets or sales orders, and you excel at this, your are golden even if you are not well-liked. (Not being well-liked is not a wise strategy of course.) But if you don't produce easily measured and important results, then it's politics all the way. It really has to be, as there is nothing else to base judgments on.

When I was a young engineer I remember a 30-something engineer named Fred. Fred was constantly visible in the hallways, nattily dressed in a dark suit, carrying a wad of paper, and walking quickly. He was pleasant and always greeted people -- the very epitome of an important and busy man. Few knew that, as an engineer, Fred was as dumb as a stone. He could have been a genius there, too, but that would be unknown to the people who saw him constantly in the hallways. His true worth didn't matter.
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Old 01-24-2021, 10:20 AM   #25
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Just adding in, I think OP SAinMinn has it figured out correctly. He is on the wrong side of the political list. He is being pushed out.

Yes it sucks being on the receiving end, and while age (and salary) discrimination is probably happening, it will be a no-win situation to go the legal route. If you win, you are just put as number 1 on the next round hit list, and upper mgmt will make your work life miserable. If you lose in a lawsuit, there will be hard feelings when you are done. Only people that win are lawyers collecting fees.

My suggestion, try to stay as long as you can, taking the time to pursue new employment while you are still employed and have benefits. It is good you can jump onto your wife's health ins if needed. Take all the unemployment you can get if it reaches that point. Sorry OP to hear you are in this position, but I think you know that staying at current job is not likely for the end that you had originally planned.
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Old 01-24-2021, 02:45 PM   #26
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I had a similar situation with my DW. Multi-state family owned business was clearly weeding out the +50 crowd.

So when my wife was put on a performance plan after 25 years with a spotless record our radars went off. Contacted a lawyer (luckily for us friend has own firm and had a employment lawyer on staff) and was told to preserve and document everything in preparation for what we knew was coming.

6 months later she was told she was being let go immediately with 2 weeks of severance. She knew not to agree to anything and the lawyer took over.

Being a long term employee, my wife knew of age discrimination law suits being brought in 2 other states. The lawyer took this and ran. 3 months later we had a severance offer of 9 months pay and benefits + a job search and education credit. After discussion with lawyer we took that offer. 2 days later lawyer told us the final deal was upped to a full year

Final legal bill was about a month of the settlement and in my opinion worth every penny. Iím sure I got a bit of a discount due to being a friend of the principal of the firm but the final bit of negotiation paid the entire bill plus some.

One a lawyer is involved or mentioned your days are over at that employer, in my opinion. Too much ill will on both sides to overcome. So it becomes a function of finding a solution you can live with.

As my friend reminded me several times, it is not a court of justice, it is a court of law.
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Old 01-24-2021, 03:39 PM   #27
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I've been there, done that. Fortunately for me, I was in a big Mega and I still had "friends" in another division and I was able to escape laterally. In your case, you have been effectively fired. My advice is to move on and look for another job, though with your wife still working, you may well have enough to retire now.
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Old 01-24-2021, 04:55 PM   #28
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Many, MANY thanks for all the thoughtful replies. It's great (?!) to know others have gone down this road. I don't feel so isolated. Every post has given me something to think about. I've read each reply at least three times. I appreciate so many taking the time.

Yes, it's political. It's not about me. It's about them. The responses here have helped me realize this, or maybe I knew it all along and I just needed some confirmation.

I really appreciate some of the later posts about my and my wife's financial condition. I'm feeling better about saying my wife and I are, basically, at FIRE. At least we have attained the "FI" part of it. Truth be told, I likely can find some part-time consulting work at a pretty good rate. Health insurance is my worry but I likely just need to get over it and hope for the best.

Yeah, I think moving on likely is the best option, though I do not see many downsides to letting them fire me. That way, I can keep my options open lawsuit-wise. I can't share a lot of details in this post ... but suffice to say some in the community will be appalled at how I've been treated once they learn details, and quite frankly I might get work out of that. And I will share details about any firing because I need to protect my reputation. Being fired without having a single performance review, at any time, is just terrible, unprofessional form. Looking back, the writing has been on the wall pretty much since the day I started that a certain faction wanted me gone. And now, basically, they are in control. That's how it rolls.

Ah well. A financial silver lining: Zoom is a big part of my job and has been from day one. So I saw the value in the company early on and bought 100 shares of Zoom at $62 a share. It's boomed in the pandemic, of course. I never would've bought the stock without having this job. So that's some (financial) rationalization at least.

Markola, thanks I'll PM you; I appreciate the offer. Good question on the Rule of 55. Unfortunately I turn 54 this calendar year and termination likely would be this calendar year, so the Rule of 55 probably is not going to work unless I negotiated a termination in 2022, which I do not feel inclined do. I do have 140K in that employer's 403(b), which is nice ... but truth be told I think I'd want to get the money out of there anyway because it's a high-fee Mass Mutual account and I'd feel better having it in my Vanguard account. I have enough saved in an after-tax brokerage account to get me to 59.5, as long as my wife keeps working with a job with insurance.

Anyway ... thanks everybody.
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Old 01-24-2021, 06:02 PM   #29
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1) Start saving hard evidence (e.g., prints of emails) off site.
2) Update your resume and start your job search now.
3) In the interim, try outwardly playing their game and being a good soldier.
4) Hard tough-love fact: No matter how much your clients like you, if your employer terminates you it won't make any difference.
5) If you do get terminated, then get an attorney. It's not stressful - you'd already be terminated, so no job stress of course. The attorney does all of the stressful "dirty work." More often than not these matters are ultimately referred to arbitration or mediation in an attempt ro work out an out of court resolution.
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Old 01-24-2021, 06:24 PM   #30
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Back in the day, I enforced the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If memory serves the Federal law only applies to employers of a certain size. In my state, state law picks up the slack.

I agree with those who recommend gathering up all documentation about your employment record. Also, I recommend you enrich your contact list. Keep all of this AT HOME out of the reach of your employer. While in many states you can request a copy of your personnel file I wouldn't do that just yet, you can do that on your last day of employment (maybe have a draft request ready should the need arise).

Start working your contact list and network like crazy for another job. Be discrete so that it doesn't get back to your employer. Start sewing your parachute.

Talk to an employment lawyer. Federal law requires mediation so you can't just file in court immediately. The Feds have delegated enforcement to some states, your lawyer can advise.

Winning an ADEA case isn't easy short of a pattern and practice situation. That is why I strongly recommend finding another job before you are let go.
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Old 01-24-2021, 07:23 PM   #31
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One thing that might give you some comfort is that your organization's reputation might already be taking a hit due to its current management. I'm sure you work in a small community where word gets around.

Good people don't leave bad companies, they leave bad management.
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Old 01-24-2021, 08:28 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
3) In the interim, try outwardly playing their game and being a good soldier. .........
I think that ship has already sailed . From the OP:
I have written a terse letter to the top manager making it pretty clear I'm watching them closely for potential discrimination. 10 days ago, I requested a follow-up meeting and that request has gone unanswered.
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Old 01-25-2021, 07:45 AM   #33
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I would wait to get "excessed", that way you should qualify for unemployment at the very least. Suing your employer probably won't be successful. They can cease any position they want.

The $1.7M puts you in a good place with less than 10 years to go for early SS. Markets are frothy so if you have a high percentage in stocks, lose your job and the market corrects by a lot (not saying it will), that could impact you emotionally. Be prepared for anything.

The one thing that would concern me is the healthcare and the spouse's employment. If you both found yourselves out of a job with no healthcare for an extended period of time, that would put a damper on your financial position. If she can keep working and you both will have healthcare, then you probably have nothing to worry about. If you're forced into "early retirement" by your employer, it's not your fault. Help out extra around the house and keep your eyes open for a decent employment opportunity. If nothing becomes available, at least you have some practice at the ER thing.
Seems to me that the corporation's race to the top is resulting in a race to the bottom for the employee's quality of life. FIRE can't come soon enough.
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Old 01-25-2021, 03:53 PM   #34
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Just reiterating some of the best advice from above:

Talk to a good local employment lawyer as soon as you are able about your viable avenues at this point. They should be able to give you good advice and be willing to work with you on contingency if you have a strong enough case.

Start working your network now; a better position for you may be open right now. Regardless, get on the right people's radar.

Keep your chin up. You are in good shape regardless.
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Old 01-25-2021, 03:58 PM   #35
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Wait them out for a package.

Get some recommendations for a good lawyer who practices in the employment law area.

Do not tell your employer that you are consulting a lawyer. It will cause them to be more careful. Let their management make mistakes that will be in your favor when it comes to settling an wrongful dismissal.

Don't delude yourself. Your time with this employer is limited. It is poisoned and will never improve. Accept that and look for new horizons.
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Old 01-25-2021, 06:07 PM   #36
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If you've already sent a terse letter to a top manager and demanded a follow up meeting that went unanswered, I believe you are already gone. They just haven't maneuvered the pieces on the board to ensure they dot the i's and cross the t's yet. So it's time to start deciding what you want to do next. I think legal action is generally a waste of time and source of stress.
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Old 01-25-2021, 06:27 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Exchme View Post
If you've already sent a terse letter to a top manager and demanded a follow up meeting that went unanswered, I believe you are already gone........
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Old 01-25-2021, 07:55 PM   #38
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"Minnesota is an employment "at will" state. An employee can quit for any reason; an employer can fire any employee for any reason as long as that reason is not illegal, such as discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or marital status." If your HR is at all savvy, they will find a way to oust you without infringing on age, or any of the other listed reasons. This would be a difficult battle to win. If you win, then what? A cash settlement? A job where you're not liked? In my small industry, one employee sued her employer (my employer), and won, but was essentially blacklisted from the industry. Great cost, little gain. Just my 2 cents as someone who has hired a lot of folks, and had to fire and lay off a few.
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Old 01-25-2021, 09:21 PM   #39
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Itís natural to have that voice in the back of your mind saying ďIíll sueĒ - it makes us feel we have power in a situation where we feel actually powerless. But if you feel stressed now, be prepared for that to really ratchet up if you do go to war with a mega Corp. By all means talk to a lawyer but the best thing for your stress levels, family happiness and future well being may be to simply negotiate the friendliest and simplest and most lucrative exit you can without going to war.
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Old 01-25-2021, 10:12 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by SAinMinn View Post
I have written a terse letter to the top manager making it pretty clear I'm watching them closely for potential discrimination. 10 days ago, I requested a follow-up meeting and that request has gone unanswered.

If you did that, then you are completely done. If you are not in a protected group (ageism is tough to prove.) you turned this situation completely confrontational (no way to put the genie back in that bottle). No companies management will tolerate being threatened like that. (And that is how they will take that, no matter how it was intended.)
If you are not in protected group.... and sometimes the ďrightĒ protected group, a company can fire you for just about any reason they choose. Even if the reason is non~sensical. I am really sorry this is happening to you. By writing that email you took away any possibility of compromise. (Although itís sounds doubtful they would have anyway). They are going to let you go, the only question is how long at this point. I am truly sorry...
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