‘Old coots’ need not apply


The age 55 and older workforce grew by 40 percent, or 8.3 million, since 2001 — nearly the population of New York City, pointed out Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior counsel at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, in a presentation last week about age discrimination.

Age discrimination is a growing problem, she says, as people live longer and need to work longer. She cited an AARP study that found 92 percent of adults age 45 and older think age discrimination is very or somewhat common in the workplace.

Ventrell-Monsees’ job at the EEOC includes prosecuting age discrimination lawsuits. She offered this example of what she called “a garden variety” case, filed in California where the law allows larger judgments than those filed in other states.

Nickels v. Staples

Bob Nickels was hired by Corporate Express as a manager at age 55 and for several years earned good performance ratings. Then Staples bought the company and after that things went south. Nickels complained that he became the regular butt of jokes at staff meetings, where he was dubbed  an “old coot” and an “old goat.” His manager asked him to resign voluntarily, but he refused. After that he was subjected to even greater levels of harassment, the court documents said. Ultimately, he was suspended for allegedly stealing a 68-cent bell pepper. A receptionist testified that management ordered her to make a false statement about the incident, but she refused.

The jury found in Nickels’ favor and ordered Staples to pay a total of $26.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages. “Name calling is very common in age discrimination cases,” Ventrell-Monsees says. “The jury sent the message that this kind of age discrimination can be very costly, and employers should certainly keep that in mind.”

Tech companies shun older workers

Ventrell-Monsees thinks the tech industry is particularly prone to age discrimination with many tech companies being blatant in their determination to avoid hiring older workers. She pointed to a recruitment ad for a cloud computing company called ServiceNow: “‘We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.’ That is a sentiment, we believe, that is shared by many tech companies,” she says.

The EEOC welcomes complaints from workers who believe they have experienced age discrimination. Here is how to file a charge. If you want to hire a lawyer to pursue your case, Ventrell-Monsees says you can find a plaintiff’s attorney who will take your case on a contingency basis — the attorney is only paid if he or she wins your case. Under those circumstances, she says, many attorneys do require the plaintiff to cover expenses upfront, which can run from $5,000 to $10,000 or more.

Here’s some advice for complaining to your employer directly about age discrimination.

Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/financing/retirement/old-coots-need-not-apply/#ixzz3dJTRoOph
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