If my 63 year old mother was fired the day after returning from vacation for the reason that her the company was “restructuring” and someone younger will take over the programs she oversees, what are her rights?

Prior to vacation she had received a stellar performance review, given an additional program to manage and a raise due to her outstanding performance. Is this legal? Is something like this covered under at-will employment with zero cause for her sudden dismissal?

Asked on October 20, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The issue is whether the restructuring is real, or whether she was fired to replace her with a younger person. A significant fact will be whether a new person was brought in to replace her, so that headcount remained the same--in which case, it appears she was the victim of illegal age-based discrimination--or whether her position was truly eliminated less headcount and her responsibilities given to an existing employer who added your mother's portfolio to her own, which would tend to support the idea that this was a restructuring. 
It is free to speak to a government agency, and perfectly proper to do so when you have a good faith suspicion that you may have suffered illegal employment discrimination. Your mother should speak with the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency and discuss the situation with an advocate or investigator--see if, under all the facts, the people who enforce the anti-discrimination laws believe that your mother may have a case.

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