Okay, the day arrived that many engineers my age dread. On Wednesday, January 28, 2009, at 10:50 AM, my supervisor walked into my office and handed me a blue file folder. He said, in a barely audible voice, “Remember the rumor we were talking about last night?” This was it; I had been “terminated.” I was to take my coat and hat and report to the “Gordon Conference Center” immediately. So, after more than 20 years of designing equipment to, as the company founder Bernard Gordon has stated, “make jobs for production workers,” my employment was terminated as though I was a part-timer swabbing floors.
The conference center had persons I never saw before, directing terminated employees to tables where Human Resource Department personnel explained the termination procedure. As a long time employee, the rules that existed at the time I was hired provided for one week’s severance pay for every year of service. It also provided for continuation of medical insurance under some written formula. It turns out that in the state of Massachusetts, employers are free to change the rules at any time. An employee’s sole remedy if he doesn't like the new rules is to quit.
Moreover, I found that in order to receive the compensation to which I was entitled, I would have to sign a document that stated, amongst other things, that I wasn’t entitled to that compensation. It looks as though the document was deliberately obfuscated because, quite frankly, most persons I know don’t write that poorly.
I declined to sign the defective document and proposed another that, after checking with a lawyer, I promptly mailed. This could be the start of another dreadful event in which only the lawyers win. The Human Resources Department still hasn’t answered my letter and the time is drawing near to when the company will refuse to honor the termination “agreement.” I had to hire a lawyer. The news is not good. It appears that the company will no longer honor any agreement whatsoever. They are going to punish me by forcing me to pay my savings account balance to lawyers.
Yesterday, I signed up for unemployment insurance because it is obvious that my career has ended. It is unlikely that Human Resource Departments at any company, charged with minimizing the cost of maintaining employees, will allow a 65 year-old engineer to “poison” their group insurance by joining their company. I was sick with the flu once in the past twenty years and took two days off. I never produced any expense for the company medical program to which I contributed over $70,000 during the term of my employment.
Even though age discrimination is illegal, it doesn’t matter. Age discrimination exists although it is usually better hidden than at Analogic, my previous employer for over twenty years.
Analogic’s president and CEO, Mr. James W. Green, during last year’s “all hands” meeting in the Gordon Conference Center, stated that there were too many older people in Analogic’s employ. This, he stated was causing the company to have too high a health insurance cost. Somebody in the audience interrupted and said that he can’t say such things, but he continued and explained that he was implementing an early retirement plan for those over age sixty-three.
When I got the blue file-folder outlining the retirement plan, I declined to participate because I had no intention of retiring as I was actively doing the work that other Engineers didn’t want to do, plus fixing software problems at Analogic’s foreign divisions. I reasoned that as long as I was doing good work, I was not vulnerable to termination. Furthermore, I had just received another excellent work review and a bonus. Who could be more secure?
Hindsight shows that those older workers who did not opt for the early retirement package have now had their employment terminated with the alternate blue file-folder. Mr. Green got his way, all those “old farts” that created the company within which he now works, are out of the way. I wonder what will be his excuse for the failure of a technology company after he gets rid of all the technology.
I guess I’ll have to get a job with a Mom and Pop shop and start all over again.