Feeling Harassed Because of My Age

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about complaints and worry about age:

I work for a hair styling franchise and I’m the oldest and most newly hired at this location. They have been harassing me since day one. For example, I’ve gotten in trouble for leaving my water bottle on the chair as I work. I can’t wear my long pony tail anymore. I can’t attach hair clips to my apron to section hair. Those are just a few of the things. I have also been written up because I didn’t pack up my stuff when I closed one night, even though I was going to be the one to open the next day.

I feel so stressed when I have to go to work there! Also, the district manager came in and cussed me out because of the above situations!I worked at another one of the franchise locations for over a year and had no problems. I moved closer to this store because of the gas prices going up, but I feel like they are trying to make me quit because I’m at least twenty years older than the rest of the shop girls. What can I do?

Signed, Pushed Out

Dear Pushed Out:

We can’t provide legal advice about this matter, but we can give you some issues to consider as you decide what to do next.The hair franchise you mention is very large and likely has an employee handbook. Review the handbook to see if the things you mentioned are prohibited. If they are, it doesn’t matter if the rules weren’t enforced at your other location, they are still the rules.

Your best way to handle that is to be very aware of the rules and not to violate them, even if they seem foolish to you. If, on the other hand, there is no mention of those things in the handbook, you may have something you can complain about to the HR section of the organization. You could ask that any write-ups be removed or at least that you be allowed to make a note to indicate that you weren’t violating a written rule, only a manager’s preference.You could also ask your manager if there are other things you don’t know about that you should watch out for. You could approach that by saying you don’t want to have any more problems but you aren’t certain what is allowed and what isn’t.

Maybe the manager thinks you DO know about the various rules he or she is enforcing there. It sounds as though there is not much positive communication going on between you and others, which is very unfortunate. Sometimes the best way to repair things is to keep a low profile for awhile and let the conflict and stress fade away somewhat. Then, begin better conversations with your manager and with coworkers. Essentially, let things calm down then start over like a new employee.It’s always difficult to be new, but it’s more difficult when you’ve been with the same company before, just new to the location. You feel comfortable with the job but to those who were already present you are brand new. This is made worse if the new employee has trouble fitting in for other reasons (the various violations that have caused you frustration.)

Consider talking honestly to your manager, if you think you can do that, given what has happened. Tell her how stressed you feel, but add that you want to keep working there and you want to do a good job. Ask for her advice about some of the issues that bother you. It may be, as you say, that there is a bias about your age. But, that would be hard to prove unless frequent remarks have been made about your age. If the company can prove you have violated rules they would have plenty of defense for writing you up and having some stern conversations with you about it, which might weaken a complaint about age discrimination.You may find it much easier to consider either moving back to your other location or finding another franchise to work with. But, if you’re going to stay at this location you’ll probably have to diligently make sure you aren’t violating any requirements and you may have to tolerate requirements that are irritating. As long as the rules apply to everyone, they are not harassing, they are simply strict.If you feel, after awhile, that you could prove there is age discrimination in your employement situation, you might want to consider talking to an attorney and asking for a free consultation. Be prepared to provide some proof to show it definitely is about age.

Also be prepared to show that anything you’ve gotten in trouble about has not been an actual violation of any kind, but has only been made up to apply to you. That will be a crucial issue.I think it is more likely that this franchise location is enforcing policies more strictly than your last location, but they are within their rights to do so. In that case, it will be up to you to decide if you want to stay there or if you want to do as Dr. Gorden sometimes suggests, and “vote with your feet” by leaving.That’s a tough choice to make, I realize. But, if you feel as stressful as you say, that may be the best solution for you.Best wishes as you deal with this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.