“We have harangued our readers for a long time [we said on December 11, 2012 ] not to call an employee “old” or “ancient,” which is clear direct evidence of age discrimination, and not to use code words, such as calling an employee: “old school,” or “set in his ways,” or “not a proper fit for the “new environment,” or “lacking in energy,” or “not being up to date,” or “sounds old on the telephone,” or “is like a bag of bones. Some employers think that they are gaming the system by using these code words, and discouraging older applicants from pursuing positions. It usually backfires.”

We later added “a little long in the tooth” to our list.  And also, try not to call an older worker “Methuselah.” 20836296_s

We commend our readers to an article written by James F. Ehrenberg of Barnes & Thornburg, which talks about a recent case where a 76-year-old engineer defeated summary judgment in a California age discrimination case because “The director of the engineer’s department allegedly told the engineer that he had been selected for the lay off because the director ‘had to consider the future of the company’ and because the engineer had been with the company for ‘a long time.’  These statements, the engineer argued, were veiled references to his age.”

California is different from the rest of the world, of course, but in any event Mr. Ehrenberg advised employers sagely:  “Be careful what you say to a newly laid-off employee. Even the most innocuous-seeming statements could come back to haunt you.”