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Wife cries foul after younger worker chosen for post her hubby wanted

While an older worker may suspect age discrimination

While an older worker may suspect age discrimination when a younger, less experienced staffer is chosen for a promotion, he or she may not have all the facts, an EEOC official says. Credit: Getty Images

DEAR CARRIE: My husband has more than 22 years of experience in the airline industry. He was previously employed for 16 years by a major international carrier and has been employed by a U.S. airline locally for the past two years. When he joined this airline, he accepted a lower-paying position, for which he is overqualified. He did that just to get his foot in the door so he could later pursue growth opportunities within the organization. He recently turned 50 and hopes to remain in the airline industry until retirement.

Recently, he applied for a promotion in his department after completing a training program. Eight months ago he was invited to join the program, which is intended to develop potential candidates for supervisory roles. He completed the program at the top of his group.

Since completing the program, he began noticing that more junior colleagues were receiving more duty upgrades than he. Some of that could be attributed to requirements of different shifts within the day. Then a permanent supervisor position was posted, and he applied since he felt that successfully completing the program gave him an advantage.

Despite my husband’s years of airline operations experience, the position was awarded to a 22-year-old newly hired employee, whose only previous work experience was in retail sales for a nationwide clothing chain. No explanation or constructive criticism has been provided, nor will it be, he learned. The decision was just left as “final.”

Carrie, while I realize my email may come from an emotional base, I cannot help but feel that this is a clear case of age discrimination. My husband is 50 and was passed over for a 22-year-old with no previous airline experience. Do you believe this could be a valid case of age discrimination? -- A Question of Age

: I spoke with an official at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. He said it was too soon to tell if age discrimination played a role.

“As in most employment situations, the individual does not know all the facts and circumstances,” said Michael Rojas, the agency’s New York District outreach and education coordinator.

Nevertheless, something seems fishy, he said.

“It does seem strange that a young and inexperienced person is hired for a supervisory position, especially in an industry where supervisory status is eagerly sought after and highly competitive – as evidenced by the special training program for aspiring employees,” Rojas said.

So your husband might consider contacting the company human resources department for more information.

He “might consider making an inquiry at human resources about this event,” Rojas said. “He can decide whether to describe it as possible age discrimination or simply ask ... whether the selectee meets the qualifications for supervisor.”

If that doesn’t pan out, he may want to explore filing a complaint with the EEOC.

DEAR CARRIE: My wife works at a retail store in the suburbs and is an hourly employee. Twice a year she has to travel to the city for new product training. The trip takes about 1 ¼ hours each way. Since this travel time as well as cost is in addition to her normal workday, does the company have to pay her for travel time and for travel expenses? If her salary is shared with the product vendor, how does this work? -- Whose Dime?

DEAR WHOSE: If the travel to the city greatly exceeds her normal commuting time, then the difference should be considered time on the clock. The company and the product vendor would have to work out who pays what. They are not mandated to reimburse her for travel expenses, however. For more information call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890 or 212-264-8185.

Go to bit.ly/TraintimeLI for more on when travel time is work time.

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