What is Age Discrimination?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") provides, in relevant part, that "it shall be unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's age." In other words, an employer is prohibited from treating an employee unfavorably or different because of the employee's age.
What is the purpose of the ADEA?
To get rid of inaccurate and stigmatizing stereotypes that productivity and competence decline with old age and that older workers are stuck in their ways.
What are some examples of Age Discrimination?
- Not being hired because of your age
- Termination due to your age, while younger employees were not terminated
- Not receiving a promotion that went to a younger employee
- Poor performance reviews linked to your age ( inability to adjust/learn new technologies)
- Termination, lack of promotion, some other adverse employment action linked with age related comments
Who is protected under the ADEA?
Employees 40 and older are protected against age discrimination in the workplace for workplaces with 20 or more employees. All employees are not covered or protected by the ADEA, most notably, police officers and firefighters.
Early retirement incentive plans play a critical role in corporate downsizing, and the ADEA permits such plans subject to certain limitations. The ADEA permits a benefit plan "that is a voluntary retirement incentive plan" consistent with the purpose of the ADEA. To qualify, any such plan "must make retirement a relatively more attractive option than continuing to work."
Bona Fide Executive Exception
Although mandatory retirement is generally prohibited by the ADEA, "bona fide executives" can be mandatorily retired at age 65 if:
- the employee is a "bona fide executive" or in a "high policymaking position"immediately before retirement and
- entitled to an immediate nonforfeitable annual retirement benefit from a pension, profit-sharing, savings or deferred compensation plan, or any combination of such plans, of the employer of such employee, which equals, in the aggregate, at least $44,000.
Keep in mind, the bona fide executive remains fully protected by the ADEA until age 65, and even thereafter, such an executive may not be discriminated against on age grounds except for mandatory retirement.
What Does "at will" Employment Mean?
The majority of employees are "at will," which means that their jobs can be terminated by their employer ( or they can quit) at any time for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. However, the employer can not terminate an employee for an illegal reason. If an employer terminates an employee for an illegal reason, such conduct may violate an anti-discrimination statute.
How Can the Daugherty Law Group Help?
With a strong presumption that employment is at will, the burden is on the worker to prove the exception, that they were illegally discriminated against and suffered an adverse employment action.
The federal statutes that protect employees ( Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, American with Disabilities Act, etc.) all have complicated procedural requirements as a prerequisite to filing suit. We can help evaluate your case, assist you though the procedural process, negotiate with your employer, and if necessary, represent you at trial.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, please contact our lawyers to discuss your legal options.