Could Being Over 50 Get You Fired?!

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If you’re over 50, chances are the decision to retire won’t be yours.

A new data analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute found that more than half (56%) of U.S. workers over 50 have been fired, forced to retire early, or pushed out of their jobs before they were ready to retire.

What’s more, one third of these pushed-out workers go on to be fired from two or more jobs before leaving the workforce. And, only 1 in 10 of them ever reaches their previous salary level again.

If you’re under the impression age discrimination is on the decline, think again. Over the last two decades, age discrimination has only been getting worse, not better.

In 1998, the percentage of older workers who had been pushed out of their jobs was less than a third, compared with 56% in 2016. And, the percentage of older adults who suffered major financial losses from being pushed out of a job tripled, from 10% to nearly 30% over the same time period.

Coasting into retirement is no longer an option if you’re over 50. Not only is it a career mistake but also a retirement planning mistake.

Something you need to watch out for are the sneaky ways employers will try to push you out the door.

Donna Ballman, a Florida employment lawyer and author of the book, Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards, wrote down 11 stealth ways companies try to eliminate older workers.

Here the most common ploys, according Ballman:

  1. Job Elimination

One of the most common excuses used to get rid of older employees is “job elimination.” However, that may just be an excuse for what is really age discrimination.

If the company is not really eliminating the job, just changing the title and putting someone younger in your former position, you may have an age discrimination claim.

  1. Layoff

The company is supposed to attach to a layoff notice a list of other employees included and excluded from the layoff, along with their ages. Employers can be sneaky about the way they put together these reports.

Some will show only select departments or specific job titles, which don’t give the whole picture. More often, they’ll include a few under-40 employees to make the bloodletting look less like age discrimination.

If you are selected for layoff and younger, less-qualified employees at your level are not, you might have an age discrimination claim. If you’re part of a one-person or small “layoff” and you can show that younger people are not being included, you may also be able to prove age discrimination.

  1. Suddenly Stupid

If, after years of great performance reviews, you’re getting reprimanded for things everyone does, or being nitpicked for things the company didn’t care about before, it’s possible the company is gearing up for what’s called the “suddenly stupid defense.”

They’re building a case to get rid of you for poor performance – trying to show a “legitimate reason” other than age for firing you.

If you’re being targeted for write-ups when younger employees do the same things and aren’t written up, you may have a claim.

  1. Threatening Your Pension

Some companies will go as far to threaten an employee’s pension if they don’t quit. That’s a scary threat, but it may be a hollow one. First of all, few people have what would be considered a “pension” (a lump sum paid out every month). Most people have 401(k)s or similar savings plans that your employer can’t touch.

Your employer may claim you can lose your right to your vested pension if you’re fired “for cause,” but it’s not that easy. You have appeal rights if they deny your benefits, and you can sue if you aren’t satisfied with the administrator’s decision.

If you’re being threatened, it’s time to run speedy-quick to an employment lawyer in your state who handles claims under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA – the law governing employee pension plans and other employee benefits.

  1. Early Retirement

One way employers get rid of older employees is offering a package that includes incentives to take early retirement. Some of these packages are too good to pass up, so if you are offered one, consider it carefully. If you turn it down, remember you can still be fired at will.

However, if the company only fires the older folks, you might have an age discrimination claim. If the early retirement is involuntary, such as when the only alternative offered is being fired, then it probably violates age discrimination laws.

  1. Mandatory Retirement Age

If your employer still has a mandatory retirement age, it’s probably breaking the law. There are exceptions for firefighters and law enforcement.

There is also a very limited exemption for employees who are at least 65 years old, who were bona fide executives or high-level policy-makers for their last two years, and who received an immediate nonforfeitable retirement benefit of at least $44,000.

  1. Cutting Job Duties

One way to force older employees out is to cut job duties, limiting your authority and humiliating you with low-level tasks. You may have age an age discrimination claim if this happens.

So don’t just quit in disgust.

  1. Isolation

Cutting you out of meetings, excluding you from lunches, and sticking you in a cubicle far from the action is another way employers try to get you to quit.

If only younger employees are being included in activities from which you are excluded, this is evidence of age discrimination.

  1. Denying Promotions or Opportunities for Advancement

It’s illegal for an employer to deny you a promotion just because they think you’ll retire soon. Cutting job duties and isolating you are sneaky ways for them to claim you don’t have the experience or qualifications to get a promotion or to advance in the company.

If your opportunities are limited after you hit one of those age milestones, start documenting what is happening and see whether they are also targeting younger employees for similar treatment.

  1. Cutting Hours

Another way to put senior employees under duress is to cut hours to the bone. Starving you to death is a way to force you to quit.

Here, too, look around and see if older employees are being targeted.

  1. Harassment

Cutting hours and job duties, isolating you and assigning menial tasks are all forms of harassment. Other examples of age-based harassment are: calling you the “old man,” or “old lady”; constantly asking when you’re going to retire; saying you’re senile; or making other comments related to age.

Donna recommends following the company’s policy for reporting harassment. And putting everything down in writing. “Title this document, ‘Formal Complaint of Age-Based Harassment and Discrimination,’ says Ballman. “Describe how you’re being singled out for treatment different than younger coworkers.”

She says, note any ageist comments that have been made to you; any other older employees being targeted; and whether there are any witnesses or evidence. Give the company a chance to investigate. If they don’t remedy the situation or if the harassment continues, it might be time to contact an employment lawyer.

Age discrimination is a serious threat to your retirement nest egg. If you suspect you’re being targeted because of your age, start documenting everything so you can build your case.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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What I Learned from Eating Candy

This post What I Learned from Eating Candy appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but it was either late single digits or early doubles.

I was looking through the local newspaper and saw a big, bold ad. Or maybe my parents showed it to me… I can’t remember that part either.

What I do remember is what the ad said, and how exciting it was to me at the time: Topps, the famous baseball card and candy company, was looking for taste testers.

More specifically, they wanted children taste testers. It was a one-day job. You’d go there, taste some sweet stuff, and get paid to tell them what you thought.

My brain was reeling. Paid to taste candy! Are you kidding me???

This ended up being my first paid job.

I can still picture the long wooden table. A bunch of us were sitting around it, with an adult at the head. We tried different things one at a time – gum, hard candy, and all sorts of other confectionery products.

After giving our opinions, we walked away with even more candy and $5 each.

The more I think back on it, the more I realize it might have also been my best job ever.

The Lesson:

A job isn’t just about the raw pay. It’s about the other benefits … including doing something you enjoy.

The Gas Station

Of course, once I turned 16, I went out looking for a “real” job.

As a newly-minted driver, a gas station seemed like a logical place to start. Heck, my dad worked at one when he was a young man and the hours were pretty flexible.

I saw one of the local chains was looking for attendants so I applied.

A few days later, I was heading out for my first real job interview. I put on a collared polo shirt … a nice pair of khaki pants … and, unlike the present day, made sure my hair was neatly trimmed.

Just like the Topps gig, I can still remember what the room looked like. I was sitting in a dark, cramped office across from a guy who wasn’t nearly as dressed up as me.

After a brief introductory conversation, which I thought went well, he surprised me by saying, “Do you really think pumping gas is the right job for a kid like you?” 

A kid like me? What did that mean?

I didn’t have to wait very long for the answer. He basically went on to explain that I was a little too polished for the job. It was messy, menial work and I probably wouldn’t want to do it very long.

He went on to say something about I would probably be happier as a cashier inside one of their other stations but I was already insulted.

Here I was, trying to show respect and suitability by dressing up for an interview and this guy was going to deny me the job because of that? What, because I was too qualified?

I ended up working as a line cook at a local pizza and pasta restaurant. It was just as hard and messy as the gas station job I was turned down for. It didn’t pay more, either.

Still, I showed up every day on time and did all the tasks – everything from frying wings to banging out cheesesteaks – to the best of my ability just as I would have done handling the pumps.

It was the same thing with other “menial” jobs I did during my school years – everything from working as a bouncer at a nightclub to running the counter of a pool hall.   

The Lesson:

People are going to judge you – often because of your appearance, mannerisms, or background – and it won’t always be accurate. All you can do is move on and be true to yourself.

My Stint in Government

My senior year of college, it was time to start thinking about an actual career.

My Dad, a state employee, encouraged me to take the civil service exam. It was the first step toward all types of different government jobs, and he was sure he could help me get a position if I did well.

While working for the government wasn’t exactly my ideal path, I really liked taking tests. I aced the thing without a problem and ended up with a job interview in the state capital.

Everything was going great with the interviewer. 

Then, a question …

“What would you say to someone if they were criticizing state workers for getting too many days off?”

Huh?

I literally had no idea why this was being asked and it was just about the farthest thing from my mind.

I remember giving some kind of diplomatic response but it reinforced what I already had thought … that government employment probably wasn’t for me.

I ended up getting myself a job on Wall Street instead, where nobody worried about getting accused of having too many vacation days. Within a couple years I was making several times as much as the state job would have paid.

The Lesson:

Things almost always work out for the best if you choose your own path.

Back to Middle School

Eventually, my wife and I were ready to leave the city for good.

I thought about switching careers and doing something a bit more magnanimous. So I applied to become a teacher at an underserved school in Florida through the Americorps’ Teach for America program.

After a few steps, I was invited to come down to Florida for the final part of the hiring process where I would design and teach a sample lesson in front of other candidates and evaluators.

You were able to choose any grade from first through sixth. I picked sixth grade English. I designed a lesson around the haiku, a very specific form of Japanese poetry.

It was an ambitious undertaking – especially once I heard some of the other candidates walking the group through second-grade math problems – but I walked away feeling really good about my performance.

It wasn’t just me.

After the presentation, I had my final interview before flying home. At one point, the woman said something about coming back down to start the job. “Notice I said WHEN you come back down to start the job, not IF,” she told me.

As you can guess, I didn’t get offered the job and I was never given any explanation as to why not.

So, instead of teaching sixth graders about Japanese poetry, I went on to start teaching regular Americans how to better invest their money … something I’m still doing today, more than a decade later.

It suits me. It’s fun. It’s satisfying. I wear whatever I want.

And nobody asks me about how many vacations I take.

The only downside is that I have to buy my own candy.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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