WILLING TO WORK: Prue Weaver in her current role, lecturing in banking law at the University of NSW.
WILLING TO WORK: Prue Weaver in her current role, lecturing in banking law at the University of NSW.

Lawyer turns age discrimination on its head

AFTER 30 years working with the same business, Prue Weaver was surprised to find herself for the first time caught in a very unpleasant work relationship.

The outcome of this relationship has led her onto a better employment pathway, but at the time Prue was ignoring what appeared to be aged discrimination, instead focusing on why her substantial industry expertise was being criticised rather than tapped into.

Prue had been working for a bank for close to 30 years as a specialist banking lawyer. It was a position she enjoyed and thought she was thriving in.

Any thoughts of her age impacting on her work position was far from her mind until a few years ago when her manager's position changed hands. She then came under the direction of a person who she found covertly critical.

"One of my early appraisals from him was bad,” she said.

The bank's human resources department took up the report and conducted a meeting between the two parties.

Prue felt at the time that she had been unduly penalised in the appraisal for her work quality.

Soon after the conciliation meeting Prue's boss made the comment, more than once, that he thought she was being paid "way more than other people doing the same job as her”.

"I responded by saying that the bank was paying me for my knowledge and skills acquired over my years of experience,” Prue said.

"That comment didn't seem to go down well with my boss.

"I must admit that after the comments I made an effort to work even harder and better.”

Then a few years later, just after Prue returned from long service leave, a second critical work appraisal was submitted in December by the same manager.

"That manager made me feel belittled and demeaned and I lost confidence in my ability, despite by that time having worked in various roles across the bank for over thirty years,” she said.

"Everything that was said to me was done one-to-one; my boss didn't put his comments in writing, just the poor appraisal ratings.”

Prue then decided she wasn't going to successfully change her work environment so she chose in January to retire as she had already reached retirement age. By then she had no regrets about leaving her job despite having worked for over half her life in the one organisation.

"Looking back, I wonder if this was a form of age discrimination. If it was, it was being done covertly, not overtly.”

Prue, 58, consequently fell into a new job which for the last two years she has been enjoying immensely.

Her study for a Masters of Law while she was still working for the bank enabled Prue to accept a position teaching banking law at the University of New South Wales.

"When I left my job I thought I wanted nothing to do with this industry ever again. It finished on a sour note,” she said.

"But what I didn't realise was the knowledge I had and what turned out to be a skill set which to me was what everybody did where I worked.

"But as a student, to be able to speak to someone who has worked in a bank, and not just behind a counter, but actually doing all sorts of legal things as I have done, turns out to be quite interesting to people who want to get into that field.

"I didn't realise that wisdom and experience would actually be interesting.”

She doesn't want to make a career out of the lecturing. "When I stop enjoying it, I will stop doing it.”

Looking back Prue doesn't talk about regrets. Rather she enthuses others that are forced out of their jobs because of their age to remember to use the network they have built up, not discount the knowledge they have, neither their experience and its value to other employers.

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