Avoiding Age Discrimination Suits

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No business wants to be sued; age discrimination suits can be especially costly.  There are ways that they can be avoided.  Listed below are some suggestions on steps businesses can take to reduce the risk of age discrimination lawsuits.

Age Discrimination Training

Properly train your management staff about legal and illegal conduct regarding age discrimination and discriminatory practices in general.  Help is available through the EEOC.  The EEOC has a training institute.  The cost for this training may be less expensive than using a private agency.  Your state human relations commission may also be a resource.

Know What is Legal

The following actions against older employees are not discriminatory:

Firing older workers for inadequate job performance and good cause (e.g., tardiness or intoxication);

Enticing older workers into early retirement by offering additional benefits (e.g., bigger pensions, extended health insurance, substantial bonuses, etc.), which are voluntarily accepted;

Laying off older workers, provided younger employees are treated similarly;

Hiring younger applicants when successful job performance absolutely requires that a younger person be hired for the job (e.g., in the case of a flight controller).

Know What is Illegal

The following actions are discriminatory:

  • Denying an older applicant a job on the basis of age;
  • Imposing compulsory retirement before age 70;
  • Coercing older employees into retirement by threatening them with termination, loss of benefits, etc.;
  • Firing older persons because of age;
  • Denying promotions, transfers, or assignments because of age;
  • Penalizing older employees with reduced privileges, employment opportunities, or compensation because of age.

Actions that Might Prove a Discrimination Case

If the answer to any of the following questions is yes, an employee may be able to prove discrimination:

Did the older worker request a transfer to another position before the firing?  Was it refused?  If so, were similar requests granted to younger workers?

How was the older worker terminated?  Was he/she given false reasons for the termination?  Did he/she consent to the decision and has your company received a letter protesting the discharge?

Was the older worker immediately replaced by a younger worker?  Were younger workers merely laid off and not fired

Waivers of Discrimination Rights

An older worker can waive their ADEA rights.  The requirements for this are strict, make sure you do them properly to avoid litigation:

  1. Must be in writing and be understandable.  This means written in plain language, no legalese.
  2. Must specifically refer to ADEA rights or claims.  A general release will not met ADEA standards.
  3. May not waive rights or claims that may arise in the future.
  4. Must be in exchange for valuable consideration. 
  5. Must advise employee in writing to consult an attorney before signing the waiver. 
  6. Must provide employee with at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least 7 days to revoke the agreement after signing it. 

As the general work, population in this country continues to age, age discrimination lawsuits grow in proportion.  ADEA law and employment discrimination law in general is complicated.  Hire a good employment law attorney to look at every aspect of your business from your employment advertising to exit interviews.  This not an area to skimp on your budget, doing so may cost you more in the end.

Avoiding age discrimination lawsuits will save a company time, money, and frustration.  The best method for avoid lawsuits is to make certain your management staff is trained in employment discrimination issues, know what actions are legal and illegal; know what actions could prove an age discrimination case; and use waivers of ADEA rights with older employees but be sure to do it correctly.  Good legal advice can be a cost effective way to prevent lawsuits and future headaches. 

This article is provided for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice or representation,
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