“If I think my termination might have been related to my age, should I consult with an attorney?”

Question: I’m a 49-year-old woman and was let go from my job after 3.5 years at a large corporation last week. I never received a performance review last year, and I was told vague reasons when I asked why I was let go.

I was offered severance and bonus, and was told I was eligible for unemployment insurance. They even offered to write me a recommendation.

Then online my job was posted 5 days later, looking for a replacement with 2 to 5 years; I have more than 10 years experience. I think my age may have played a role in my being terminated.

Should I see an attorney about this? I’m more interested in gaining more severance than a lawsuit. Thanks.

New York, New York

Answer: Deborah, I do think that you should seek a consultation with an attorney, for five important reasons.

First, it sounds like you have not yet signed a “severance agreement” or “separation agreement” which are the most common names given to the document employers have employees sign before severance monies are paid. I truly believe that, before you sign any legal document, it pays to have an attorney look at it for you. It might even have other, harmful things that you don’t recognize as harmful.

Second, if you believe that age may have played a role in the decision to terminate you, you do have “legal leverage” to seek more severance. A good attorney will ask you many questions – just like a good doctor will – to determine what facts, events and circumstances would support your claim of age discrimination, or – let’s be frank – possibly even indicate that your claim is not very strong. Only a good, experienced attorney can do that for you.

Third, “you never get unless you ask.” That is, we suggest all employees who are terminated ask for more severance, and use their “best arguments” to support that request. You must make sure that you are clear that your request for more severance is not a rejection of what they’ve offered you, only a request that they reconsider. Human Resources professionals tell me that “There’s always a ‘reserve fund’ for terminated employees who come back with a credible argument.”

Fourth, age discrimination is the most common discrimination there is. At the same time, juries all can relate to it, as “Whatever our gender, race, religion, or background, we all get older one day at a time.”

Finally, I believe people “rest easier” later, that is, feel better about what happened, if they at least look into whether they had a credible legal claim or not. Otherwise, “you’ll always wonder.”

Seek an attorney who (a) is experienced in employment law, (b) preferably, represents employees only, never employers, and (c) comes recommended by others who have been through what you are facing, and found the attorney helpful.

I do not seek to have you waste your money on legal expense. But I do think it is not wise to be “Penny Wise and Dollar Foolish” in this situation.

To obtain a Model Complaint of Age Discrimination to HR or Management, for your adaptation to your facts and situation, just [click here.]

My best to you. And I hope you find new employment before your severance runs out.

Thanks for writing in. Hope you’ll tell others about our blog, and maybe subscribe – It’s Free!!

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in your city, just [click here]. Delivered by Email – Instantly!

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.