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A 63 year-old friend has been requested to look for employment outside the company (no exit package was offered). She is an administrative assistant vested in a company that was taken over by a larger conglomerate 2 years ago. For 2 years she has been told they were hiring a new boss for her so she has been assisting others; recently they decided to promote 'the boss' from within and he came with a built-in AA. She has approached two attorneys to figure out her rights since she only has 2 years until retirement. Both said that without an employment contract, it would be difficult to pursue the powerful co. since they have a fleet of attorneys to counter fight the battle. One said wait for the company's 'package' and he would charge $400 to review it with her; the other said her fee would be a $6000 retainer with $300 per hour--obviously money a single AA would have trouble finding. Is it true that an age discrimination suit should only be pursued by someone with an employment contract? What suggestions would you have for this desperate woman? Thank you.

It never ceases to amaze me how blatantly unjust this world is. Through my work I, unfortunately, see so many cases that are similar to this one. Situations where power takes precedence over fairness and where people are valued by a skewed scale and not a just one.

I am not an attorney or a legal expert, so I am not in a position to tell what is best in the case. Instinct tells me that a contract shouldn't make a difference. In racial and sexual discrimination cases they don't--they do help, but they aren't the end-all be-all. The evidence seems to exist without the contract, so I can't imagine that that would be the determiner.

Obviously the first step would be to find an attorney. The best ones usually come through personal referrals. The next step would be to approach advocacy groups--especially those dealing with "older peoples' issues." For starters, there is the Gray Panthers, founded by Maggie Kuhn. Their phone # is 202-466-3132 and their address is: Gray Panthers, 2025 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 821, Washington, DC 20006.

There is also the Older Women's League based in New York City. I'm not sure where you live, but perhaps their are similar groups in your area serving this constituency. These advocacy groups are usually familiar with other cases on similar topics and on the best way to proceed.

I hope this helps. Good luck to your friend--and thank you for being such a great friend.


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