Twenty-Somethings Get Booted

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If you're an unmarried 20-something, chances are good the boss has sent you to visit a client in Timbuktu solely because all your co-workers have spouses and kids who'd miss them.

That's the kind of thinking that inspired a Wall Street Journal story suggesting young workers are getting pink slips they don't deserve because employers are afraid to lay off older workers. The Journal's Dana Mattioli writes:

"Employees in their 20s and 30s are finding themselves more at risk of a layoff, according to labor lawyers, as employers look to avoid age-discrimination lawsuits by adopting a 'last one in, first one out' policy and turn to tenure as a means of conducting layoffs. In some cases, young, childless professionals say they feel they're being targeted in layoffs, while employees who have families to support are given special consideration."

A key consideration: most states exclude workers under 40 from the protection of age discrimination laws. Just a "handful" - including New Jersey and Michigan - allow age discrimination suits by anyone above 18, the Journal says, citing Andria Ryan, partner at Atlanta law firm Fisher & Phillips LLP. That makes it less risky for an employer in most states to cut younger workers than older ones.

Survival Tips For Youngsters

Workers in the 25-34 age group are much more likely to be unemployed (9.6 percent, according to official U.S. data for April) than those 55 and older (6.2 percent). But those statistics ignore education and skill differences. David Wyss, chief economist at Standard and Poor's, points out the overall unemployment rate for college grads is about 4 percent. The rate for over-50 college graduates is lower than for new grads, but there aren't as many older graduates.

The Journal offers these tips for avoiding the ax:

- Don't ask for flexibility, extra pay or more responsibility than you deserve.

- Be the first one in in the morning and the last to leave at night.

- Go to any training or certification classes the company offers.

- Cross-train in as many departments as possible.

- Connect with mentors who will argue your case during layoffs.

Of course, the scenarios Mattioli describes sound implausible for many areas of the financial sector. Just try and picture a trading desk head opting to retain a parent over a childless trader who had superior P&L!

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