You worked for 30 years to build your career, starting when you were 22 and fresh out of college. Now you're in your fifties and you just got fired. It feels like everything you worked so hard for is gone, just like that.
Worse yet, you believe they fired you directly because of your age. Your industry tends to target young people, and they quickly hired a few new college graduates to replace you. They're doing the same job you were, so clearly the need and the money are still there. The company just wanted a young person to do it instead of you.
You know that age is a protected class, just like gender or race. It's illegal to fire someone based on age alone. But how do you prove it? Here are six tips:
- Co-workers harassed you before you got fired. They made fun of you in person and in email messages. They may always have smiled and made it look like a joke, but it was clear you were the odd-person-out due to your age.
- Your boss pressured you to quit. He or she is younger than you and kept asking endlessly when you wanted to retire, even though you made it clear you wanted to work until you turned 65. Your boss also participated in the light harassment, poking fun at your age and creating a hostile work environment.
- You weren't invited to specific events. Everyone took a team-building trip to the mountains one weekend, for a short retreat, but no one over the age of 40 got invited. It was clear the only team anyone cared about was the younger workers.
- They began to write you up more often. Little things that you didn't even think were mistakes got you called into the office. You think they were trying to apply more pressure to get you to quit since you felt unwelcome.
- Young workers get different standards. Half of the office seems to roll in at lunch, but you get called out if you get there at 9:05. It's obvious that the deck is stacked against you, and there's no other logical reason for it.
- The promotions end, and they start going to younger workers. They start passing you. It's clear that your boss is playing favorites. You keep doing better work and getting more done, but it becomes obvious that they're done letting you climb the corporate ladder.
When any of these things happen, make sure you take notes and gather as much evidence as you can. For instance, save any harassing emails or text messages.
Again, age discrimination is illegal. It often goes overlooked. Those who experience it need to know all of the rights and options they have.