So you feel like your job is in danger since you turned 50? Have you seen coworkers that have suddenly been laid off when they reached retirement age?

Since laws have been passed that make age discrimination illegal, employers have become more creative in the ways they weed out older employees. For instance, there might be a sudden “downsizing” or perhaps a restructure that eliminates certain positions held by an older workforce.

During the last major economic downturn, many workers took a financial hit and have had to delay retirement. In order to avoid paying the higher wages that older workers demand, companies have been using some questionable methods to get rid of older workers in a way that does not lead to discrimination charges. Here are few stealthy ways employers ditch older employees.

Poor performance reviews

If you have been working for the same company for many years and always received positive performance reviews, a sudden change in these reviews could indicate that you are about to lose your job.

For instance, management might suddenly become overly critical of your performance or begin to nitpick about trivial things. Employers do this so that they have a seemingly legitimate reason for firing you. However, if it is obvious that they are singling you out and ignoring the same or worse behaviors in the younger workers, you could have a discrimination claim.

Making you choose between the job and your pension

An employer trying to make room for a younger and cheaper workforce might try to make you choose between your job and your pension. For example, your boss might try to tell you that you will lose your retirement benefits if they have cause to fire you.

In many cases, this is an empty threat because workers have retirement plans like 401(k)s that an employer cannot touch for any reason. However, if you have a vested pension that your employer controls, you do have the right to file an appeal if the company denies you your pension.

Incentives to retire early

Another common way that companies try to force out the older workers is by offering an early retirement package. In many cases, the employer will make the retirement incentives too good to turn down. However, if you turn it down, your boss might still find a way to fire you. If there is a pattern of this kind of behavior, where only older employers are let go or retirement is involuntary, then the company might be in violation of discrimination laws.

Knowing the sneaky ways that companies try to get rid of older workers can help you recognize the signs if you are in danger of losing your job in Santa Barbara when you get close to or past retirement age. If your boss has a pattern of only firing older workers, you might be able to file a claim for age discrimination.