Friday, August 03, 2007

What’s Age Got to Do With It?

I worked with my boss recently and all day he criticized my job performance and topped it off by saying, "For your age ( I am 52 ), you still have some get up and go." This was said in a very negative context.

It was, in my opinion, very offensive to bring up age. Is that legal to do?
Thank you

by Marc Effron, VP, Talent Management, Avon Products

Hi John – Remarks about age and performance are never appropriate in the workplace, so it’s understandable that you’re offended! Since I’m not an attorney I can’t evaluate whether what he did was legal or not, but there are a few options you should consider:

1. If you work in a company with a Human Resources department, you can speak with an HR representative to both explain the situation and to ask for their advice. This should also serve as official notice that you have informed the company of that conversation, which will be important if this becomes a legal issue.

2. You can contact an employment law attorney and ask for a consultation. They can advise you whether your employer is or has discriminated against you because of your age and recommend next steps.

3. You can address this concern directly to your boss. Let him know that you are committed to being a good performer and would like to discuss performance standards with and create a development plan. Also, let him know that it’s not appropriate for him to make remarks about your age in any context. Even if he says that he was “just having fun” or denies making the remark, it’s important that you reinforce that you take offense when he discusses your age.

You can do any or all of these, depending on which you feel is appropriate. What’s most important is that you are treated with the dignity and respect each of us deserves and has the legal right to have in the workplace.

I hope that helps and good luck!

Marc Effron is Vice President, Talent Management for Avon Products. He has authored two books (including Leading the Way and numerous articles about leadership. He is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
I came across Age Discrimination in the Workplace by Kelly Jones who wants to have a dialog on her blog about this issue.

1 comment:

Working Girl said...

Well, gosh.

I think it depends on context. Is this how this boss talks all the time? Is the boss much younger than you?

Either way, to me, it's always best to deal with these things in a humorous (if possible) manner, right on the spot, all by yourself. No lawsuits necessary.

First line of defense when someone makes a stupid crack like this: Assume he is joking and make a flip remark in return! It saves him face, it shows you are not going to take this kind of stuff lying down, and it defuses the situation.

How about that? Does anyone think this is worth a try??