A previous post on this blog mentioned briefly that age discrimination claims can be hard to prove. After all, an employer rarely come out an say up front that a Los Angeles resident is getting fired or laid off because of his or her age, especially since most employers know that doing so is illegal and can lead to having to pay damages, including back pay and attorney's fees.
An employer who is dead set on getting around the law and terminating older, "more expensive" workers is going to rely on the element of surprise to do so. It is best for them when the first time a worker over 40 realizes something is up is when they are handed the pink slip. Employees who are older therefore should be aware of some subtle warning signs that might signal age discrimination.
The more obvious signs of age discrimination are getting reassigned to tasks that are menial or obviously not as important or prestigious as the job the person once performed. Especially if the new position obviously leads nowhere, it can be a warning that an employee is being set up to get caught in the next round of layoffs. On a related point, it can be concerning if a person stops getting regular raises.
Less obvious signs include talk about "culture" at the company, particular when this seems combined with a push for younger workers who command less pay. Although it is perfectly legitimate for a company to want to have a particular "culture," that does not mean that it needs only people in their 20s and 30s to come in as new hires.
Another warning is a sudden change in one's performance evaluations. A little fluctuation from year to year should be expected, particularly if someone's duties have expanded or their responsibilities have grown. However, even if there are reasons given for the evaluation, an employee is rarely going to go from stellar to horrible in one evaluation cycle.
Anyone who has been terminated with these signs in play may want to seek legal representation. Losing a job can feel like a devastating event, but there may be options available if the termination was not in line with the law.