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Ask The Expert: Age Discrimination in Job Search and the Workplace

Have you ever seen or experienced age discrimination at work or feel that your age is negatively affecting your job search? About 3 in 5 workers over 50 surveyed by AARP think older workers face discrimination based on their age.

AARP Foundation Senior Attorney Laurie McCann is an expert in this field, with extensive litigation experience related to age discrimination and other employment issues.

Now thru Monday, January 27, Laurie is here to answer your questions on age discrimination in the workplace – and to address your options under the law and what you can do to protect yourself.

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Good morning! This concludes "Ask The Expert: Age Discrimination in Job Search and the Workplace" with AARP Expert Laurie McCann (@lmccann58). Special thanks to all who contributed their personal stories and sought advice during the session. And to Laurie for all of her time and attention and thoughtful expert advice over the last couple of weeks (and for staying on an extra day to get through all the questions!).

 

Please visit the AARP Work & Jobs forum any time to talk and share with your peers. To find more information from AARP, visit the Work & Jobs channel on AARP.org.

Thanks again and we look forward to your continued participation in the forums!

 

 

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Regular Contributor

I never felt my age was of any consequence until this past weekend.  I most always am scheduled to work weekends, and this past weekend my manager requested to talk to me before leaving for my shift.  I was told that my position was being eliminated and was given a 2 week notice and that I would receive a severance package.  I was told by the manager I was dependable, did a good job, was kind and patient, but was told it was a business decision.  The only thing I can think that it must be my age.  I can honestly say I'm looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life.  I am retired and a part time worker.

 

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AARP Expert

BettyS487482,

I am so sorry to hear this! If you learn of additional information that suggests age may have been a factor in your termination, and you want to challenge it, don't lose sight of the important time limitations for filing a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Charges must be filed within 180 or 300 days of the alleged discriminatory action, depending on the state. I admire your positive attitude and wish you luck going forward.

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Contributor

Hellio,

 

I was laid off 2 years ago., when I was 65. Subsequently, I found out they only lays off folks who were over 60. All of us were immediately replaced by younger folks.  I received severance (one week for each year I was with the company). But, I had to sign an agreement stating that I would not fight or question the layoff in any way. Is this legal? I know the layoff targeted seniors.  Do we have any recourse?

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AARP Expert

timh992231,

I am so sorry to hear that you were laid off in what sounds like an age-based reduction-in-force. Unfortunately, charges of age discrimination must be filed no more than 300 days after the alleged discriminatory act, so too much time has passed for you to challenge the layoff. Although waivers of rights and claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), must meet strict requirements to be lawful, in your case, the passage of time would be the principal roadblock to challenging the RIF.

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Newbie

Our entire department was dismantled (State of California), and no alternative jobs were offered, despite our being trained in the duties of other departments.  I have noticed that job ads are now requiring applicants to be a "digital native".  In other words, someone who grew up using computers (Millennials and younger).  At age 67, I do not fit into that category, although I have always excelled in my various jobs which have utilized technology.  

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CathyA268424,

AARP is very aware of - and very concerned about - the trend of employers requiring applicants to be "digital natives." We have testified to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), that the term "digital native" is clearly age-based and can be used to unreasonably and thus unlawfully screen out older applicants. Thank you for raising this important issue and best wishes in your job search.

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Contributor

Yes. Constantly. Even though I have extensive experience, I get turned down constantly. Saying someone has closer skills. 

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Contributor

More than 35 years of successfully building businesses. And each better than previous. Yet hear all the time someone has more experience. More experience than being the reason Square D was bought by Schneider. MPC was bought by Woodward. WebPlan bought by Kenexis. And raised two companies of my own and sold them. 

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Social Butterfly

I'm going to be the "elephant in the room" on this topic; I do not want to offend; however, some will be.

 

At age 58, jobless (outsourced offshore), homeless (living in a shelter when beds were available), I applied for (using public library computer), tele-interviewed (via public library pay phone), then in-person interviewed (arriving via public busses) with an entire Team of 15 people.

 

I knew I was qualified (would not have applied if not) but also realized the job market at the time was overwhelmed with many qualified candidates. I don't recall ever thinking my age was a factor, but maybe it was.

 

I received the job offer while searching for other opportunities online, again on public library  computer). To say I was stunned and grateful would be an understatement.

 

I have since retired, but during my employment at that last job I learned many things:

 

  • I was the self-designated granny  in an office of almost 100 wonderful people; they all felt comfortable coming to me and I felt comfortable asking them any questions I had about almost anything.

 

  • I feel all are extended family and continue to care about them and their families, and will always.

 

  • I hope their experience working and sharing with me influences their attitudes 20, 30, even 40 years from now, and they embrace being the elder in a positive way.

 

  • As someone said some time "Age is a number; old is an attitude..."

#VegasStrong
Phil Harris, actor and showman, to John Fogerty of CCR: “If I’d known I’d live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”
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AARP Expert

WebWiseWoman,

What a great story! Thank you so much for sharing.

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Contributor

I was 49 years old when I was let go after 25 years working for my previous employer. The whole company was only 12 employees.  A new CEO came in and systematically released all of the executive staff over a years period of time.  His explanation was that he was going to take the association in a different direction.  All of the executive staff were in their 40s or older.  I was the last person to be released.  Each person was replaced with someone much younger with no experience.  I was offered a very minimal severance package with the caveat that I could not sue my employer.  I spoke with an attorney and he basically said that even if I had a case, it would be very difficult to sue because of how small the employer was. Is that correct? I am in Arizona which is a right to work state.

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AARP Expert

MarcS444110,

Yes, the lawyer you spoke to was correct. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only applies to employers with 20 or more employees, and the Arizona statute that prohibits age discrimination only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. 

I am sorry to learn of your termination and wish you luck going forward.

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Regular Contributor

It sounds like you consulted with an attorney who did not want to put the time and effort in to working for you. In my experience I have found that there are attorneys who are really passionate about helping clients and there are some who want to just settle and do the bare minimum . Its worth checking with another attorney. If you had more skin in the game (ex: Money to put up front) they apply themselves differently . When you don't have any money to invest , attorneys are not motivated to working
toward justice for the employee. It takes a lot of passion and courage to stand up to big corporations . I think we need to pressure our elected officials to stand up for workers who are experiencing age discrimination . We have a right to navigate our own career path. We have a president who is over 50 and we have candidates who are over 50 applying for his job. There should be laws against asking discriminatory questions regarding graduation date and salary on previous jobs. Your official school transcript is proof of your diploma and degree. Your previous salary should be private . If an employer is interested in hirining you , talk about salary after a official job offer, if the applicant do not want to accept the financial compensation the company is willing to offer than let's negotiate. To disqualify an applicant because of age, race, past salary, graduation date ,and sexuality takes civil right back decades . When it comes to civil right we as country have not evolved as much as we like to think we have. Talking about this situation is great because it brings awareness but we need ton really do something about it. Companies should be held responsible illegal hiring practices and the EEOC needs to be investigated.

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Newbie

We were called to an unscheduled, yet planned, plant meeting and told that the company needed to "tighten their belt". The plant manager told us that they were going to offer "voluntary" packages to the "older more experienced" employees, those 55 or older with more than 10 years experience.

They had everyone that fit into that catagory stay, while the others went back to work. We were all handed envelopes with our names on them. Inside was an offer letter with years of service and severance pay amounts. We then had to meet with our department managers to hear why they wanted us to take the package. I was told my position was being eliminated and if I didn't take the package I would have to go to 'an undesirable' position on the manufacturing floor which they knew I could not physically do. I choose to except the package rather than be out of the door with nothing.

 

That was the 1st round. They did not get all that they needed.

The second round was 55 or older with any years of experience. Again, they did not get all that they needed. Several people said that if they lowered the age to 50 they would go. They did not.

The third round was involuntary seperation. They tapped 11 of the last people hired, most of which were older employees.

 

My exit date has been set as May1st by my department manager. I am no longer part of any group, I have no immeadiate supervisor. There are a lot of age jokes going around and at times I just feel like walking out. My job right now is to train someone to take my place. A "place" I was told no longer exists.

 

 

 

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AARP Expert

deborahsd,

While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) allows employers to offer early retirement incentives, they must be voluntary. The ADEA does not define "voluntary," but veiled threats of terminations or retaliation if one does not take the incentive can be evidence of involuntariness. I assume you will be asked to sign a waiver of your rights and claims under the ADEA to receive severance.  Keep in mind that the ADEA establishes strict requirements for such waivers one of which is that you have to be given at least 45 days to decide whether or not to sign it. 

I am really sorry you are going through this. Please let me know if you have additonal questions.

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Regular Contributor

That's terrible! Like many of blogs I have read, I am sure the majority of us are not eligible to receive full retirement benefits. Age discrimination and harrassment of any kind should address by the United States Government . I have been writing letters to my local officials daily and I am asking that they address this situation . During election time I am overwhelmed with politicians asking me for donations so I expect my elected officials to earn their pay check . It is outrageous that an employer 50 and over have no control over their own career.

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TamaraH570525,

Thanks for the call to action! One thing that eveyone can do is to contact their senators and ask them to support (and vote for!) the Protecting the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (POWADA) that recently passed the House of Representatives. POWADA restores the burden of proof for ADEA claims after the Supreme Court increased the evidentiary burden for age discrimination victims in 2009. It sends a message that freedom from age discrimination should not be a second class civil right.

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Periodic Contributor

Age discrimination just does not stop in the emp[loyee work place either. Any entrepreneur over the age of 50 is also discrimiated against. Younger entrpreneurs do not want to deal with older entyrepreneurs) entrepreneus because they (older entrepreneurs) cost too much or don't know much or anything about technology.

 

H. James Hulton III

The Write Stuff

North Wales, PA 19454

www.thewritestuffhjh.com

H.James Hulton III
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Contributor

An article in the Chicago Tribune says move from suburbs to downtown Chicago has made the company faster and younger.  I wonder if an underlying purpose of the move was to cause attrition among older employees.

 

From suburban bubble to urban bustle: McDonald’s employees say HQ move to Fulton Market has made the... 

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Regular Contributor

I wouldn't doubt it!  

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AARP Expert

Neil0926054,

The article you shared is very disappointing and demonstrates how our society doesn't view age discrimination as seriously or as wrong as other forms of discrimination. Can you imagine the outrage of the protected category in that headline was something other than age? Thank you for sharing.

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Contributor

Hi Laura:

 

Is there a statue of limitations on filing an age discrimination suit?  It occured in 2015.  I retired bec ause they were going to terminate me after 33 years.  I did not dispute the issue at that time.  I did not want to lose my pension benefits. I went back to school.  changed my career.  new kid on the block.  no one wants to hire me.  despite my skills.   I have the skills and intelligence.  No networking mentor to help me.  Or that wants to help me.  I read this months AARP Bulletin and it prompted me to research.  The Article was so on point regarding ageisim discrimination.  We bring much wisdom to the corporations.  along with integrity, accountability, flexible, ontime, and dependable. 

THERESA PHILLIPS
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tp94316672,

Yes, there is a statute of limitations for bringing age discrimination claims. First, a charge of discrimination must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), within 180 or 300 days of the alleged discriminatory action depending on the state - in most states, its 300 days. Then, after the EEOC completes its investigation, it will issue a right to sue letter and then a lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of that letter to be timely. The ADEA does not require individuals to wait for a right to sue letter from the EEOC before filing suit (which is different from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). One only need wait 60 days from filing the charge before filing a lawsuit.

I am very sorry to hear that you were forced to retire and wish you luck in your job search. AARP agrees with you on the value of older workers and is working to convince employers of the same. Thanks for your message.

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Conversationalist

Ok, how about this -My boss was talking to me and said that he didn't think I could do the job anymore because of all the heavy lifting, long hours and intense deadlines.

I knew what he was getting at and felt like this is my escape to leave this unit.  I worked at a private school as a chef. I had the opportunity to leave and go to another unit where I would not have to do catering, long hours, family fairs which is working around the clock,no night time hours, no week ends and no extra jobs added on.

When, I told him the next day, I'll be leaving for the new unit- he was in total shock! He couldn't say a thing. I walked away. Now, It's his turn to know how I felt by working all the time, everyday.

When, I came back to visit him, he told me he's losing money big time and he doesn't know how he can fix it.  I just smiled and said " That's nice" and walked away.

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Contributor

Ms. McCann:

This is about age discrimination at church.  I know this is off topic, but I did not see anywhere else to post this.  I read an article online tonight that is really bothering me.  A Minnesota Methodist Church has told the elderly members to leave.  They want to start a church with younger people that will bring in more members.  This is the most appalling thing I have read in a long time especially coming from a church.  I have posted the link below.  I just think the leaders of this church should be held accountable for this hurtful action.  Is there anything that can be done about this.

Sarah Smith

 

https://www.wral.com/struggling-minnesota-church-asks-older-members-to-go-away/18902577/

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AARP Expert

smcdowellsmith,

I am shocked by the news story you shared. That is a horrible - almost unbelievable - example of age discrimination. However, since it's not an employment situation, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is not applicable. I think the best response would be public outrage and protest directed at both the offending congregation but also the national headquarters of the Methodist church. I hope justice prevails.

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How can a person resign peacfully when he/she is being bullied in an educational setting? Asistant supervisor is not nice and boss ignores the problems. Also how do you handle academic jealously? Some people hate individuals  with master's degrees and tell the person off plus claim that they have too much education?

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Many cases are hard to prove...I don't like the fact they can get away with asking you if you are over 40? What year you graduated  high school? And you can't bypass these questions.

 

The other issue is those who are over 50 who have been on the job a long time. My husband 23 yrs. It seems the over 50 yr olds were not given a raise for 2 yrs., salary cap.

We are old school so no raise is an insult. So 2 yrs. no raise then 3rd yr. 27 cents. $10.80. After insurance weekly premium increase you can't get ahead.

So they have you in a postion where you've been with them 23 yrs, you have good health insurance, several weeks vacation time. They know if you were to go back out there your age would be against you not to mention the salary would be lower.

 

We live in Chicago, so with no raises and property taxes going up we had to choice but to sell our home and rent coming out cheaper. It's sad.

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