The baffling reality of age discrimination: How too much experience can impede your career

When it comes to the workforce, experience can cut both ways. Many advanced careers require years or decades of demonstrated experience. However, older workers are increasingly finding themselves shut out of career opportunities simply because of age discrimination.

Employers sometimes overlook well-qualified seniors in favor of fresh young faces. When they make employment decisions purely based on age, however, they may be breaking the law.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against those ages 40 and older. Unlawful and unfair treatment can happen at any stage of the employment process, including:

  • Hiring
  • Salary and benefits
  • Working conditions
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Layoffs, firings or forced retirements

What can you do about age discrimination?

You might be entitled to bring a legal action against your employer for compensation, reinstatement (if appropriate) and punitive damages. Before doing anything, though, talk with a lawyer about your rights. Don’t put off this important first step. If you wait too long, important deadlines could pass and evidence could fade, leaving you out of luck.

The problem of proof

You might know, deep down, that you were a victim of age discrimination. Proving it is another matter. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a smoking gun, you likely won’t have a concrete admission from your employer that their unfair actions were based on your age.

Fortunately, many types of evidence might shed light on your situation. For example:

  • Perhaps your employer has engaged in an ongoing pattern of discriminatory action against older employees
  • Maybe other employees have witnessed offensive remarks or persistent harassment
  • Maybe you reported the age discrimination internally and your concerns were ignored – or, worse, you were fired in retaliation

You should never feel forced to remain silent about illegal age discrimination. By making your voice heard, you can seek justice and accountability – not only for yourself, but also for others in similar situations. Contact Alan Lescht and Associates today if you have been discriminated against because of your age.

How social media can affect your security clearance

Social media provides a window into the private lives of individuals. Sometimes, that window can reveal red flags that cast doubt on the character of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets.

A federal policy released last month allows agencies to consider social media when vetting employees or contractors for security clearances. The policy covers traditional social media platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – as well as other types of user-generated Internet content such as comments and discussion forums.

The move reflects a growing recognition of the insights social media can offer when it comes to evaluating risks. As part of a “whole person” approach to reviewing security clearance applications and renewals, social media profiles are difficult to ignore.

What this means for you

Security clearances are valuable credentials. Your clearance may be essential for your career. Fortunately, the new policy doesn’t mean you will have to steer clear of social media entirely.

Securing – and maintaining – these clearances has always required passing a rigorous background investigation. The new policy simply adds another dimension to that inquiry. Importantly, it is limited in scope to public postings only. Agencies won’t require applicants to divulge their login information, nor will they require disclosure of every social media handle.

The takeaway: Use common sense

It’s no secret that questionable behaviors can potentially jeopardize your clearance.

And, as most people are by now well aware, there is no such thing as true anonymity on the Internet. Taking a commonsense approach to your social media presence can go a long way toward safeguarding your security clearance.

What can my old boss say in a job reference?

The reference can be a problem when it comes to getting a new job, especially if you’ve been fired from your old one. If your former employer says the wrong thing, it can very well mean you’ve lost the opportunity.

So, what can HR or your old boss say?

How the law works

In general, each state regulates what a former employer can and cannot say in a job reference. In general, information provided should be limited to your actual on-the-job performance.

This can mean many things.

In Maryland, for example, former employers can disclose information about your job performance, as well as why you left the company. In Virginia, former employers can disclose information about your “effort” and “productivity,” along with information about disciplinary action or performance improvement plans and overall professional conduct.

Perhaps your old boss just doesn’t like you

A lot can be said about your job performance in a reference, some of which may go outside of what the law allows in your particular state. Your old boss may give false information, for example, to damage your reputation, because she simply doesn’t like you. It may have nothing to do with actual performance, but it will likely cost you that new job just the same.

If this happens to you, you may have a cause of action.

Talk with an employment lawyer

At Alan Lescht & Associates, P.C., protecting your job is our job. If you believe that your former employer is railroading your future job prospects, call us at 202-536-3315.

You want to get that new job, not be shot down because your former employer acted unfairly.

Pregnancy discrimination: Pregnant nurse forced out of her job at the clinic

True story – well, to protect confidentiality, it’s true enough. This is the story of a nurse who had trouble getting pregnant, and once she did get pregnant, her employer only made things worse.

We’ll call her Nancy.

Nancy had a problem. She wanted a new job. Though the work was often very fulfilling, she’d had enough of her role as a PICU nurse. She wanted something new and different to do within the field of nursing. And, frankly, she was sick of the long hours on her feet and the night shifts.

So she set out to find one.

Now, given the hot job market for nurses, Nancy’s high performance in the PICU, and a great referral from a nursing friend and colleague, it wasn’t difficult for Nancy to find a new job as a nurse supporting neurosurgeons in a clinical setting. It suited her well – great pay, relatively fulfilling work, regular 9-to-5 hours.

This was just the type of thing Nancy needed, especially since she wanted to start a family.

But getting pregnant was Nancy’s other problem.

She and her husband had been actively trying to get pregnant for months. Now, they were going down the path of assisted reproduction, with the possibility of IVF looming in the back of Nancy’s mind. Nancy was starting to wonder whether she’d ever be able to get pregnant.

But, no matter how it happened, it would be their first child, and Nancy wanted that more than anything.

Nancy gets the job AND gets pregnant. Then she’s forced out.

At first, it seems like Nancy has solved both of her problems. Shortly after she finds that great new job at the clinic, a miracle of miracles: Nancy discovers she’s pregnant, no IVF required, just a bit more time than she and her husband figured they’d need to get pregnant with their first.

Ultimately, the doctor orders bed rest.

Fast-forward a few months: Nancy’s starting to show, which is great, but it turns out that this pregnancy won’t be free of some bumps and bruises. The doctor wants Nancy in for more-than-regular check-ups, to monitor Baby’s health and Nancy’s, which requires that she be out of the office regularly. Nancy’s superiors are supportive, but HR grudgingly goes along with it.

What can you do, right?

Nancy feels she has no choice but to quit.

But then, another couple months go by, and to protect Baby and bring it to as full term as possible, the doctor orders bed rest.

This Nancy’s employer will not accept.

HR refuses to make a reasonable accommodation and allow Nancy to work from home (which other employees at this clinic have done in the past) as per “company policy” and because Nancy hasn’t “been there long enough” (less than a year), citing eligibility under FMLA. (All this despite the assertions of Nancy’s boss that they value her contributions and want Nancy to keep working there.)

Ultimately, Nancy feels she has no choice but to quit.

Did Nancy try to game the system when she got pregnant? Or is she somebody who desperately needs legal protection?

You’re not alone. Things like this happen to people more often than it should. If it ever happens to you, talk with a lawyer who understands. Suing your former employer is one thing – but suing as a nurse is another. The healthcare field is a small world. We’ll help you walk through the pros and cons.