Retirement is a big decision and it’s an area that unfortunately can involve a good bit of unfair age discrimination as well. Employees should be aware of their rights and should also understand an employer is allowed to do regarding workers who reach a certain age.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was created to ensure that all workers over the age of 40 have a fair chance at pursuing or continuing employment. Its provisions grant employees protection from age discrimination in every area of employment including promotion and termination. This means that an employer cannot treat an aging worker any different from other employees and could be held liable for doing so.
What is Forced Retirement?
Many Americans are forced to retire well before expected, and there are a variety of reasons for this. Some must retire due to a disability or in order to care for a spouse. Cutbacks and layoffs can also force workers to retire before their expected date. However, some workers are forced to retire for illegitimate reasons which involved discrimination on the part of an employer.
For these workers, forced retirement comes as a result of a bias toward their age and questions about their ability to handle the everyday rigors of a job as they get older. Some employer bias related to age has much to do with unfair assumptions as well as the desire of many employers to employ younger worker over older workers.
On such occasions, aging workers can experience any number of discriminatory situations. This includes situations in which a supervisor or manager openly uses biased comments such as ‘old man’ or ‘grandpa’ or remarks that an employee is ‘too old’ for a certain position.
It also includes less obvious forms of age discrimination such as the hiring or promotion of younger, less qualified employees over older workers. Additionally, acts demonstrating favoritism or differences in treatment between older and younger workers are sometimes signals that a forced retirement is an illegal violation of the law.
Getting Protection From the ADEA
Under the provisions of the ADEA, an employer cannot force an employee to retire at a certain age. Though there are a few narrow exceptions, the main purposes of the ADEA is to prevent such discrimination from occurring in the workplace.
In addition, the ADEA prevents employers from making age a job requirement when hiring and from advertising positions based on age. It also prohibits setting age limits for training programs and prevents an employer from retaliating against employees who complain or file formal charges concerning age discrimination.
It is important to note that the ADEA does not apply to all businesses. Only cases involving companies with 20 or more employees can be tried under the provisions of the ADEA. However, some state laws allow employees to pursue age discrimination litigation against companies with fewer than 20 employees.
Proving Age Discrimination Under the ADEA
Proving age discrimination is necessary in order to raise a rebuttable presumption that a force retirement is illegal under Title VII. Courts have established several factors, or elements, necessary to prove age discrimination. These are as follows:
- The employer discharged or took adverse action against the employee.
- The employee was forty years of age or older at the time.
- The employer took the adverse action because of the employee’s age.
If an employee suspects that an employer is forcing retirement at a certain age, it is important to be aware of the elements necessary to prove age discrimination. This will help analyze whether a violation of law has occurred. An experienced and competent employment law attorney can assist with determining whether the facts of a particular situation are sufficient for an age discrimination complaint.
What Should You Do When Your Employer Is Forcing You To Retire?
Forced retirement is illegal under the ADEA. As such, an employee experiencing such treatment should file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An employee generally has 180 days from the last date the discrimination occurred to file a charge under the ADEA. For cases filed under state laws, the time period is a bit longer at 300 days in most states.
Once your charge is reviewed by EEOC investigators, they will determine whether the agency should pursue your case. The EEOC may also attempt to remedy the situation by encouraging the employer to put a stop to the discrimination. If the EEOC decides not to take on the case, it will issue a notice signaling it is acceptable for the aggrieved employee to file a complaint of age discrimination in a court of law.
If your employer is using harassment based on age to force retirement, it is important to report the abuse to a supervisor or manager. This step is essential and required by law. If after the incident or incidents are reported and the employer fails to prevent the harassment or allows it to continue unchecked, this could be grounds for a successful age discrimination case.
The assistance of a competent attorney is essential for age discrimination cases. Even at the outset of a case when the EEOC is first contacted, an attorney’s help could prove beneficial. It is best to seek the advice of a qualified employment law attorney as early on in the process as possible.
If You Think You’ve been Forced to Retire Due to Your Age…
Forced retirement can be a devastating blow to a long and steady career. The ADEA prohibits forced retirement when it comes consists of discriminatory acts against worker over 40 years of age. If you think you’ve been illegally forced to retire after reaching a certain age, contact an attorney right away. Your age should not determine your termination, and with laws like the ADEA in place, it doesn’t have to.