I subscribe to the belief that ages 40 and 50 are the new 30, as does my neighbor, a young-looking 50-something. But that sentiment came crashing down for him one day when a 20-something at work referred to him as the "old guy." He swallowed his ego for that incident, but he now has a bug in his ear that his company might force him to retire because of age. After doing some research, I told my neighbor not to worry too much because there are laws regarding forced retirement.
Forced retirement policies are generally a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. There are exceptions, however. Companies that have high-level executives who have a pension benefit of at least $44,000 can institute forced retirement. Individual state and local governments can also require firefighters and law enforcement to retire at a certain age. Federal civil service workers such as air traffic controllers, customs and border patrol officers and nuclear material couriers could be subject to mandatory retirement. Because my neighbor does not fit into any of those categories, his employer cannot force him to retire, according to the ADEA.
Forcing Out Anyway
Although companies cannot legally force anyone into early retirement, my neighbor is not going to keep his head in the sand. Despite there being laws against mandatory retirement, some companies force people out anyway. From 2000 to 2010, age discrimination claims have risen 61 percent, according to the EEOC. One reason companies still force people into retirement is that it is often difficult to prove that the cause for termination was because of age. The company could claim another reason. In addition, as of 2011, courts are backlogged with age discrimination cases, so it could take years to resolve such a case if it does get past the beginning stages. The EEOC takes few cases to court, so chances are, people who were forced into early retirement would need to hire their own defense, which is usually expensive.
Checklist for Suing
People who have been illegally forced to retire have a better chance of winning their case if they meet certain criteria and can gather the right paperwork. Generally, a long-term employee with a proven success record and solid work performance throughout his career stands a better chance of winning a lawsuit. I told my neighbor that if he is worried about forced retirement, he should record any offensive comments he might receive from his employer with the dates included. Witnesses who can corroborate his story also help. If my neighbor can show that his company's hiring and firing procedures show a pattern of age discrimination, he would also stand a better shot at winning a lawsuit.
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