Can My Employer Force Me to Retire or Is That Discrimination?
Can My Employer Force Me to Retire or Is That Discrimination?

If you are close to 65 and concerned that your employer is trying to force you to retire, you have protection. Thanks to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), there is no mandatory age for retirement.

Under this law, you have protection against discriminatory practices that include hiring, termination, promotions, benefits, training, job duties, layoff, and compensation. In other words, your employer cannot force you to retire. Otherwise, you have the legal right to file an age discrimination lawsuit.

However, there is a caveat in that companies have a standard retirement age. That means that even with the ADEA, they can justify an employee’s retirement based on real business needs. Even then, they must be careful in handling the situation. Usually, employers will weigh the pros and cons of standing their ground on their set retirement age, knowing they could face a lawsuit for age discrimination.

The challenge is that companies have ways to get what they want without fear of a lawsuit. Following are some examples of how your employer might try to get you out legally, albeit in a somewhat sneaky manner.

  • Job Elimination – Your employer can eliminate your job and then change the title and duties to some degree. Now, if the “new” position gets filled by someone younger, you have a strong case for age discrimination.
  • Layoff – As part of a layoff, your company must create a list of included and excluded employees. By including a few younger workers and depending on how they write the report, they might get by with forcing you out. However, if your employer hires a less qualified person to perform the same duties, again, you probably have protection.
  • Unfavorable Performance Ratings – Even with a stellar job history, your employer could begin giving you unfavorable performance ratings. By using small reprimands, the company builds a case leading up to a justifiable forced retirement. Your goal is to show that younger employees perform the same work without receiving bad write-ups.
  • Threats Against Your Pension – While not as common, some companies will threaten an older employee’s pension, claiming that by not retiring, it would somehow be affected negatively. If you find yourself in this position, you need to hire a qualified attorney who is well versed in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Companies use other clever means for getting aging employees to retire, such as offering a significant incentive, reducing job functions that reduce authority or cause humiliation, exclusion from business and company-related functions, cutting back hours, and skipping over promotions or raises. Some companies will go as far as doing things that constitute harassment and setting a mandatory retirement age, which is illegal.

If you notice signs of a forced retirement, start by filing a formal complaint with HR. If you get no resolution, it is essential that you hire a qualified attorney, someone with years of experience dealing with age discrimination cases. Being targeted by your employer warrants a discussion between you and a reputable attorney regarding an age discrimination lawsuit.

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