Older worker feels like company is pushing him out

Q. I am 62 and working for the same national company for 34 years as an account manager. Four months ago they transferred me to another department. Now, my new boss told me that I don’t have the skills for the new position that they put me in. I am trying to take classes to upgrade my skills, but I don’t think they care. They want me to step down. My question is what can I do? Should I contact a lawyer and try to fight them?

A. I anticipate that you are disappointed in the current situation and your new position with the company. I also anticipate that you are feeling pressured to take some kind of action. The circumstances you describe raise serious concerns for your job security, and for what could be a case of age discrimination.

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Details are needed to fully understand what is happening at your organization, and what is happening in the conversations you are having with management. Based on the information you provided, I consulted with David Conforto, at Conforto Law Group in Boston., who responded “The following facts lead me to believe that your employer may be treating you unfairly because of your age, which is a violation of both the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act: (1) you are 62 years old and, fall within the protected category of age which applies to employees 40 years old or older; (2) you have been with the company for 34 years and, presumably, have a long history of consistently meeting your employer’s expectations; and (3) you were recently transferred to a new position, in what appears to be an effort by your employer to ensure your failure — especially in light of the fact that you feel it necessary to take classes to upgrade your skills.”

Having legal information about your status may help you determine the outcome you would like to see. When you think about “fighting,” what does that involve? Most employees and employers don’t want to be part of a lawsuit. Litigation is most often a last resort, but consulting an attorney is not.

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Attorney Conforto offers this advice: “Devote time now to exploring your potential legal claims, namely age discrimination. If, as you believe, your employer’s intent is to have you step down, they may offer you a severance package. In exchange for severance pay, you will likely be asked to sign a full release of legal claims, which will undoubtedly include your potential claim for age discrimination. Knowing the rules of negotiation in this particular context is vital. Your leverage in maximizing severance may hinge upon your potential age discrimination claim”.

An attorney can prepare you to deal with all aspects of this situation when they are consulted early in the process. Don’t wait, as there are critical deadlines to file a claim, no matter how strong your case may be.

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