WHEN SONGWRITING MEETS THE LAW

Fred Jones

This past weekend I attended a Ben Folds concert in Cedar Rapids.  He’s one of my favorite musicians, and I’ve seen him perform live several times.  While he did not play Fred Jones Part II when I saw him last, every time I hear it, I can’t help but think, “Poor Fred.  This sounds like age discrimination and he needs an employment lawyer.”

As the song goes, Fred has worked at a newspaper nearly his entire working life.  For reasons unknown to the listener, Fred is let go from the paper, only to be replaced by an “awkward young shadow” waiting in the hall.  On his last day, Fred feels cast aside, as if dedicating the last twenty five years of his life to the paper of meant nothing:

“There was no party, and there were no songs; ‘Cause today’s just a day like the day that he started; And no one is left here who knows his first name; And life barrels on like a runaway train; Where the passengers change, but they don’t change anything; You get off someone else can get on…”

For whatever reason, we are seeing an increase in the number of people who come into our office with potential claims of age discrimination, which is prohibited by both Iowa and federal law.  Perhaps the decisions are innocent.  The workforce is getting older, and when layoffs occur that unavoidably means laying off older workers.  One could argue that the jobs that older workers hold are becoming obsolete.

But what if it isn’t innocent?  What if the discharge of older workers has nothing to do with layoffs or job titles, but instead results from employers who believe that older employees no longer have what it takes to stay ahead in what has become a fast-paced, technology-driven world?  You know, they just can’t keep up; they take too long to catch on.

Just like Fred, the people we meet can’t believe their employment has come to an end with little to no acknowledgement of their many years of hard work and dedicated service.  Like any case we see, age discrimination cases are difficult to prove.  Employers come up with myriad of reasons why the decision was not motivated by age.  Courts are reluctant to second guess companies’ business decisions, especially when it comes to HR or personnel issues.  It’s a tough fight, but it’s not an impossible one, and for us, it’s a fight worth having.

(Ben Folds is still on tour.  If he plays near you, go check him out and see if he’ll play the song.  And then find an employment lawyer for Fred).

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60560731@N08/12483387643″></a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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