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Buyouts, layoffs and age-discrimination...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mizzougrad96, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I've recently had some interesting discussions from some friends at some of the papers that have had buyouts and layoffs and they all say that the older writers (60+) on staff all have threatened age-discrimination lawsuits if they were let go or "forced" to take a buyout.

    I know you can't be "forced" to take a buyout, but I do know of places where they've told people, "Look, if you don't take this, you might not be offered anything next time..."

    Obviously, I'm not saying that every writer over 60 needs to retire. But every paper has one or two guys who just will never ever retire and I find it troubling that those people seem to be exempt from the cutbacks that the industry is going through right now... I know of one writer who actually said, if you even talk to me about a buyout, I'll sue the paper..." The guy is in his late 70s.

  2. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    Re: Buyouts layoffs and age-discrimination...

    At a former shop, one guy worked into his late 70s, and he was there about five years longer than folks wanted him there. Sure, he had his foibles, but he was a decent guy and had great institutional knowledge.

    The high-high-ups decided to gradually increase his workload -- when our papers merged with his old company, he was doing less work than others at his new company had been -- at 75 or so. He eventually sued for disability, and I'm not sure how it ended up.
  3. Joe Williams

    Joe Williams Well-Known Member

    I'd have to know the math, to see what sort of dropoff from regular salary to "early retirement" benefits or even Social Security an veteran reporter or copy editor would be looking at. Traditionally, newspapers haven't offered pensions or other retirement benefits as good as what cops, teachers, federal employees or auto workers get, so it's tougher to give up the paychecks.

    Stinks that newspapers would pay people relatively low wages for their entire careers, then get mad at them when they don't cooperate with a push out the door. Especially when the top execs get their golden parachutes and back-end deals, or make more in one year than Gramps has built up in his 401(K) over a few decades.

    If you're a younger co-worker eager to see the oldster shoved out, just remember that every raise you get paints a bigger and bigger target on your back, too. These bosses would prefer to have everyone at their starting salaries, forever.
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    At 52 at this point, I'm in the territory where if they try to let me go without cause, I'm definitely going to consider a suit.

    Fortunately, there's no hint of that, and I'm hopefully not dead wood yet.
  5. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    i'm a lawyer and i can tell you that just because you're old (not you, SF ;)) and you get fired doesn't mean you have good cause for an age discrimination lawsuit. it's difficult to prove and legal precedent in the past 15 years has generally leaned heavily in favor of the employer. the burden is on you to prove that the firing was pretextual and courts generally take the view that you need to prove more than mere pretext.

    the reality is that if you do file an age discrimination lawsuit, lawyers who practice employment law will generally tell you that regardless of whether you get damages - there's almost no possibility that a lawsuit will result in getting your job back - you should be prepared to enter another field. it's also a lengthy process that will almost always take years to resolve.

    that said, if the boss is making nasty cracks about your age and you get axed, talk to a lawyer because you might have a case.
  6. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Do you have any evidence that they "seem to be exempt" from the cutbacks?

    Seems to me the buyouts are targeting 50+ people.

    So I could turn it around and ask, "Hey, how come you guys aren't pressuring the 32-year-old over there who spends half his shift IMing and listening to his iPod to take a buyout?"
  7. ServeItUp

    ServeItUp Active Member

    My mom has marveled at what I've told her about the buyout memos that have circulated recently. "Employees over the age of 55 or with 10 years or more in the company are eligible for this program." She's been in HR before and she wonders how on earth newspapers can get away with that because that is such a blatant nudge out the door for older employees. Almost as though they're daring someone to sue them.

    So yeah... how do the execs get away with it?
  8. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    I don't think they're doing anything wrong . . . as long as they are just "making an offer" to a 55-year-old employee.

    It's when that offer becomes "I suggest you take this now, because if you don't in six months you will have no job and no offer" . . . that they could be ripe for a lawsuit.
  9. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Active Member

    Thanks to Leo1 for his expert explanation.
    The experience I've had about suing your boss is that it never turns out good. I had a choice to join in with some others who were laid off because "your job has been eliminated." Well, obviously, it was bullshit. They couldn't eliminate the slot position or the prep editor position that was a one-man show. They filed a wrongful termination suit.
    I decided not to join those suing. It turns out, and I think this usually is the case, that an agreement gets reached that is sealed. But word gets out that those laid off got just about what they would have gotten had they not sued. So they wasted a couple of years and still didn't have their jobs.
    And even if they got their jobs back, they are still working for somebody they sued and it has to be a contentious situation around the office.
  10. MU_was_not_so_hard

    MU_was_not_so_hard Active Member

    Obviously it's not ideal: But in right-to-work states, would you rather have a buyout or get called into your bosses' office and be told your ideals no longer mesh w/ the company (or just be given your walking papers) and be out the door?
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    55-year-old staffers are never going to get another job in the industry anyway, so who gives a fuck? Sue 'em to the moon.
  12. jfs1000

    jfs1000 Member

    I would say in the last 10 years the climate has gotten very favorable to employers, especially large ones. It's very hard to win these suits, and for the corporation they dare you to sue them in this regard. they have almost limitless resources.

    Very few of these places in all industries follow the spirit of the law. I know a lot of places that fire people for maternity leave etc. No, it isn't explicit, but they don't want working moms to work there because they feel they won't be as productive (or need to stay home with the kid from time to time).

    It's the same with age. They want the salary and increased health costs off the books.

    The sad part is that there are a lot of people who agree with this thinking.

    We love corporations in America. Seriously, everyone thinks like some stockholder now and we accept these inhuman business practices because we believe that profit is the most important thing.

    How else would you explain people upset over the capital gains tax rate. There are so few Americans that are taxed on this. It's only wealthy people who pay this tax. Same with the estate tax.

    Not everyone is an economics major in college. There are working class folks who never went to college who feel the capital gains tax is unfair.

    It's just the way society is right now.
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