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HomeNewsWorker Demoted at 68 With 30% Pay Cut Fights Back

Worker Demoted at 68 With 30% Pay Cut Fights Back

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Opinions vary regarding age and work. According to a recent survey by Transamerica Institute, 56% of employers believe that the ability to work isn’t determined by age but by individual capabilities. However, about one-third of employers think there’s an age limit, with the median age being 62.

Rachel Pruchno, a renowned gerontologist with over 40 years of experience, knows this debate firsthand. She spent years as the research director at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging and has extensively secured millions in research funding and publishing.

Last June, just before her 69th birthday, Pruchno was met with an unexpected blow. Rowan University informed her that she would lose her director position and a significant pay cut, coupled with being demoted. Pruchno’s unexpected, major salary reduction especially caught her by surprise. “Nobody ever said: ‘You’re not doing a good job’ or ‘If you don’t do X, Y is going to happen,'” she noted. The sudden change left her confused, especially considering her stellar track record.

Pruchno’s situation highlights broader issues of age discrimination in the workplace. She believes the university’s actions were unjust, particularly as a tenured professor. Despite her qualifications, Pruchno faced sudden and unwarranted changes, including being relocated to a windowless office.

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Pruchno didn’t take the situation easy with them at all. She, together with her union, filed a suit against Rowan on the basis of age discrimination. Despite facing a very difficult battle, Pruchno is not changing her mind. She is determined to seek justice. Her case, now in arbitration, could set an important precedent for older workers’ rights.

The Reality of Age Discrimination

As Pruchno’s experience shows, winning an age discrimination case is tough. Despite the laws in place, proving that you have been discriminated against based on your age can be challenging. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this is why there is a decline in cases brought forward and settlements reached.

Despite the setbacks, Pruchno remains focused on her work. She’s currently writing a book on successful aging, drawing from all her research and interviews. Her commitment to her field still remains intact, even in the face of this challenge.

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“Most people, when faced with all this, would say, ‘Adios. I’m retiring. See you. I have a good life,'” Pruchno said.

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But she couldn’t do that for two reasons. “No. 1: It’s wrong,” she explained. “And No. 2, I felt like [my work] is my little tikkun olam.” That’s a Hebrew phrase for “trying to improve the world.”

Both employers and employees can learn valuable lessons from this experience. Transparent communication and fair treatment are undebatable, regardless of age. Pruchno emphasizes the importance of being prepared for unexpected changes and advocating for oneself in the workplace.

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She thinks Rowan could have handled things better by giving her more notice before instituting the sharp pay cut.

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“Had I known about it six months earlier, I could have planned,” she said. “Or if they wanted me to write grants, I would have.” She worries that what happened to her could, and does, happen to others in their 60s.
Her advice: “Maybe just start thinking about it [and] realizing ‘It could happen to me.'”

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