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Age Discrimination

A working woman who has reached a certain age is sometimes perceived by her

employer as being less valuable to the company than a younger woman or a

comparably aged male colleague.  For men, however, advanced age is often seen

as a sign of experience and an asset.  A 55 year old male with salt and pepper

hair is likely just hitting his stride in business; the perfect power age - a central

casting authority figure.  His perceived value does not diminish as he grows

older.  Contrast the middle-aged Wall Street titan, the middle-aged male

politician (think George W. Bush) men who are at the top of their game (not in

real value terms of course, based on true game competence, intelligence, wisdom

or goodness), but the perception of power--the personification of power,

authority and success -- with the similarly situated 55 year old female; on the

diminishing side of  her value curve, post-menopausal, waning looks,

diminished opportunities from all sectors.

Consider the "aging female" stigma as it applies to celebrities.  While aging male

actors such as George Clooney, Richard Gere, Sean Connery (the other side of

70) or Anthony Hopkins increase in value and are often coupled with women 20

years their junior for onscreen romantic pairings, aging actresses (anyone over

40 by Hollywood standards), on the other hand, find they are both paid less and

employed far less often in direct proportion to their advancing age.  For

instance, the always comely Kim Bassinger was reduced to playing Eminem's

mother in the recent film 8 Mile when she was all of 45 years old.

Although age discrimination may be the actual motive behind a woman's

termination, the employer may call it an early retirement package (sometimes

referred to as a “golden handshake”).  These offers can be thinly disguised ways

to clear a position for a younger employee that is willing to work for less pay and

no medical coverage.

Those who have experienced unequal treatment because of their age and/or sex

and age are protected under the laws known as Title VII, The Age

Discrimination in Employment Act, the Older Workers Benefit and Protection

Act, the New York State Human Rights Law as well as the New York City

Human Rights Law.  These laws prohibit anyone over the age of 40 from being

treated poorly, demoted or fired solely because of their age.

If you feel your employer is degrading the terms or conditions of your

employment as a result of your age (regardless of your gender), don't wait to be

fired, complain now, formally and in writing, about the discriminatory

treatment you believe you’re suffering as a result of your age.  The law requires

you to do so and by invoking a protected activity before you’re terminated, you

may just yet save your position and at the very least, your negotiating leverage

may improve measurably.


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