Posted by: coastcontact | October 31, 2015

Buy-Outs, Forced Retirement and Age Discrimination

Your employer is in financial difficulty and needs to find a way of saving cash until there is a recovery.

If you work for a newspaper or magazine you are in an industry that is in serious decline then recovery is in doubt. The Washington Post seems to have recovered thanks to a purchase by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. BusinessWeek magazine was bought by Michael Bloomberg and is thriving. Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report are gone. Tribune Publishing Company that owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers is in dire straits.  The Los Angeles Times is currently attempting to offer buy-outs to their staff.  Sports writer Bill Dwyre, a gray-haired man with years of experience and probably high pay just announced his retirement.  Other outstanding columnists with that paper are probably also going to take their leave.

General Motors and Ford Motor Company both went through some very difficult economic times as have   many other companies.

In every instance they all followed the same path. Cut the high cost employees and reduce the pay to the remaining employees. I know people who were part of the buy-out, those who faced the reduced pay, and those who were simply laid-off. I was party to that situation more than once.

The issue for those losing their jobs is their age. Once you are older, 55 or older, obtaining another job at the same pay as was previously received is difficult and in most cases impossible.

Age discrimination is rampant and impossible to prove. “Age discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) less favorably because of his or her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.” That is the statement posted on the EEOC on their web site.

From Forbes magazine dated January 31, 2014

The Ugly Truth About Age Discrimination (abridged)

“So then the headhunter said something that took my breath away,” said my caller, Philip.

“He told me that his client looked at my resume and said it looked great, but then he found my LinkedIn profile and decided I’m a little long in the tooth for the job.”

I was silent. That took my breath away, too.

“Long in the tooth?” I asked. “As in old?”

“Exactly,” said Philip. “The headhunter actually told me that the client said I was too old for the job. I asked him if that was illegal – I’m pretty sure it is – and he said that the client’s view is that if they don’t interview me, I’m not a candidate, so it’s not discrimination.”

“That’s false,” I said, but even as I said it, I knew that it doesn’t make any difference.

What is Philip going to do – sue the employer he never met because a third-party recruiter told him that one hiring manager made an inappropriate comment? So-called Failure to Hire cases are notoriously hard to bring and even harder to prove. As long as the organization ends up hiring someone who is qualified for the job, how could Phil ever prove that he was rejected because of his age? It’s not as though the organization is going to publish the new hire’s age for all the other candidates to see.

Age discrimination is everywhere. I hear more examples of age discrimination than I hear about sex discrimination, racial discrimination and every other kind put together. I expect that’s because some employers believe that older workers aren’t as nimble or perhaps aren’t as easy to train. Some of them undoubtedly worry that an older person is necessarily overqualified, and thus likely to bolt the minute a better job comes along.

I was there too. At the age of 60 in an interview the president of the company, he asked me if I was a grandfather. My answer was no and that was accurate. The thought running through my head was I would not be obtaining this job. To my surprise I did receive the job offer. I went on to two promotions proving that older employees can thrive.  Could I have brought a successful suit against that employer? There was no proof that the question was asked.

I know of no solution. Businesses thrive, businesses shrivel, life goes on. As the population ages the issue of age discrimination will fade away.

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Responses

  1. This is an excellent breakdown of the Age Discrimination issue. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life and there’s nothing you can do about it! I am starting my blog to address this problem and how to survive in that 10 year window between laid off and actual retirement. If you have a moment, please look at the My Story article and let me know what you think! Thanks!


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