A quick look at the unemployment lines across the United States would reveal that there are more people over age thirty-five filing unemployment claims. Historically, when recession takes its place in the cycle, the judiciary processed law-suits stemming from ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967) as quickly as Hollywood lob movies in theaters. The term for such shedding of employees during hard times is RIF or Reduction in Force.
Would you know if you are discriminated at work because your age?
Age discrimination could mean that you are too young or too old. Whether the opinion is based on obsolete organizational approach or executive ignorance, complaints continue to reach the court for a decision. There are no existing laws prohibiting a company from using RIF (Reduction in Force) measures to save their beleaguered organization. The judiciary had shown ambivalence in its rulings in any given year after ADEA was written. In the years leading to 2008, the US Supreme Court places more burden on employers in ADEA cases. Then in 2009 the US Supreme Court reversed its decision and favored the employers in a more employer friendly ADEA ruling. In 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit sustained US Supreme Court ruling in a decision that effectively stated that more evidence is needed than just age differential in RIF cases.
Do you feel like the victim of a myth?
In a presentation for a federally funded unemployment support organization the host mentioned, without citing sources, that the preferred age for a new hire is twenty six. The statement was not too far from reality just by looking at the faces of people seeking help or using news media that are littered with horrific stories of people in anguish after losing their jobs. RIF is evident everywhere providing more fuel to California’s poached economy. Many myths surround the nation’s ageing employees and a majority of companies are unwittingly supporting the myth by attempting to give their companies a youthful make-over.
When the word old is mentioned, the image that hits the brain is that of a gnarly, arthritic, and toothless individual with graying hair in frayed outdated clothing. But ask any random unemployment specialists or observer and the image suddenly takes a weird turn. In one article, Allison Doyle, mentioned that the common complaint heard from the recent unemployed is that companies do favor new hires younger than thirty-five and at forty, you are considered ‘washed-up’ in some industries. How encouraging is that? Considering that the ‘Boomer’ generation is quickly approaching retirement and generation X are in their forties, what generation is perpetuating ageism in the present workplace? With the recent economic downturn it can’t be helped but picture an acrid, dog-eat-dog workplace environment where relationships are defined with different meaning and purpose.
What to do
Be vigilant and take careful, factual notes on what your immediate superior says if you feel like being singled out because of your age. Remember that you cannot make use of testimonies from people outside of your team.
Assess your job and skill-set. There are no legal remedies if you are cut from the workforce because your job and experience are no longer relevant in the recent technological and services transformation.
Keep informed with the recent age-related development in the workplace. Knowledge is often the best defense or offense however you use it.
If you have solid evidence that you or your team was unjustly treated by virtue of your age, contact the US Department of Labor and the EEOC.