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Beware of a probe recently launched by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC has begun checking for signs of age discrimination, especially at companies that trim their payrolls. The agency is primarily looking at large corporations but warns that smaller companies are not immune. You can defend yourself in age-bias cases by showing you acted for any of three reasons: just cause, such as misconduct or poor performance; inability to perform the job because of age; or “business necessity,” such as financial troubles caused by loss of a key account. Document the grounds for your layoffs along with the facts and statistics to support your action.

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