Amendments to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act

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The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (adea act) of 1967, or adea 1967 act was amended in 1990 with the adea 2009 act in the following areas:

  • Benefits – specifically prohibiting employers from denying benefits to older workers.  This recognizes that the cost of benefits to older workers is usually higher than that for younger workers and those employers would try to reduce cost by terminating older workers.  Benefits can be limited because of an employee’s age only in limited circumstances. 
  • Waiver of ADEA Rights -- An employer may ask an employee to waive his/her rights or claims under the ADEA either in the settlement of an ADEA administrative or court claim or in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program.  The 1990 amendments to ADEA set out minimum requirements that must be met in order for a waiver to be valid.  These waiver requirements are:
  • Must be in writing and be understandable. 
  • Must specifically refer to ADEA rights or claims.  A general release will not met ADEA standards.
  • May not waive rights or claims that may arise in the future.
  • Must be in exchange for valuable consideration.  If you were entitled to certain benefits anyway, and did not receive anything additional in return for signing a waiver, it is not valid under the ADEA.
  • Must advise you in writing to consult an attorney before signing the waiver.  While you do not have to consult with an attorney, and may choose not to, you must have been advised in writing to consult an attorney.
  • Must provide you with at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least 7 days to revoke the agreement after signing it.

Effect of the 1991 Civil Rights Act

Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991 in response to Supreme Court rulings in 1989 that reversed twenty years of accepted civil rights law.  These rulings by the Supreme Court made it more difficult for litigants to prove discrimination.  The 1991 Civil Rights Act codified the law that Supreme Court had reversed.

Should I Hire an Age Discrimination Lawyer?

The 1991 amendments to ADEA indicate specifically that if you are considering waiving ADEA rights that legal counsel should be consulted.  It is recognition of the serious nature of your action.  Do not ignore this warning.  Consult a lawyer if you believe there is adea discrimination because of your age in benefits and if your employer asks you to wave any rights.  

1990 amendments to the ADEA and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 protect older workers against age discrimination in relation to benefits and make these cases easier to prove.  Competent legal counsel is essential to protect your rights in this area.