Out With the Old, In With the New
As Charles Darwin said, "[i]t is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change." For employees in the more tech savvy workforce of today, this may be true. The requirement to adapt to the new technologies of our world has resulted in many older employees losing their jobs. But, is it simply a new business strategy or age discrimination?
The unavoidable shift from paper to digital
As many companies begin to move away from paper and print and focus more on digital copies, employees who are not very tech savvy are seen as undesirable. Most often, this tends to be the older, longtime employees, over age 50. As a result, these older employees are laid off, terminated or forced to resign or take early retirement.
Incredibly, these employees, who had been receiving excellent performance reviews throughout their long period of employment, are now becoming obsolete in the eyes of management. But, is this legal? Aren't the federal laws prohibiting age discrimination being violated in these cases?
Defining age discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of their age. Specifically, the ADEA protects employees who are age 40 or older. The statute also makes it unlawful to retaliate against them for complaining about discrimination, filing a charge or participating in an investigation or lawsuit alleging age discrimination.
What are employers prohibited from doing under the ADEA?
Under the ADEA, employers are not allowed to mention age or say that a certain age is preferred in recruiting or job notices. This may also include asking for date of birth or graduation on a job application. Employers cannot set age limits for any of their training programs. Employees cannot be forced to retire at a certain age, with a few very narrow exceptions.
Beware of policies and practices that impact older employees
The ADEA also protects employees against policies and practices that have a "disparate impact" on older employees. This means, a policy that seems to be neutral on its face, but has a negative impact on older workers, is suspect and may be considered discriminatory. The only exception is when an employer can show that the policy or practice is actually based on a reasonable factor other than age.
The ADEA also protects employee benefits
Employees cannot be denied the opportunity to participate in an employer-sponsored benefit plan because of their age. Nor can the benefits provided by an employer be reduced based on the age of the employee.
Employment claims, as well as the federal and state laws that apply, can be complicated. If you feel you have been the victim of age discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady Michel & King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.