Age discrimination is still an issue in America. Employers seek out young, energetic workers in favor of older employees who may be set in their ways or may not have the skills and education that companies desire.
Still, discriminating against someone solely based on their age is illegal, as set forth in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). However, this act was amended in 1990, when Congress passed the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act. This act was put in place to not only protect the jobs of older Americans, but their benefits, as well.
The Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) prohibits discrimination against older workers in terms of employee benefits. Employee benefit plans that fall into this category include pensions, retirement plans, and insurance plans. Older workers must receive the same amount of benefit payments as younger workers, so there cannot be any difference based on age. The OWBPA does allow employers to adjust for life insurance and other benefits that are more expensive for older workers.
The OWBPA prevents several other actions. Employers cannot fire only older workers when making staff reductions. They also cannot force older workers to waive their rights. When more than one employee is terminated at the same time, employers are required to provide detailed information about the termination to ensure fairness. If the termination does not comply with OWBPA rules, it legally cannot be enforced.
However, there is one exception: When reductions in employee benefit plans are made based on age and can be justified by significant cost reductions. What this means is that employers are allowed to have a “bona fide seniority system” in place, but they cannot force involuntary retirement onto their employees simply because of their age.
There are waiver rules in place under the OWBPA. An older worker can waive the right to sue the employer, but the employee must follow certain guidelines, such as using the correct language. Otherwise, the waiver may be rejected. When a legal waiver is in place, the employer will give the employee an incentive for voluntarily leaving the company. In exchange, the employee cannot sue the company.
Under the OWBPA, there are several restrictions on agreements not to sue. To ensure any waiver agreements are legal, both employers and employees need to understand these restrictions. An employer must use clear language that is easy to understand. The waiver cannot include any hidden rights or claims that the employee may not discover until after signing the waiver has been signed. The employer must give the employee a reasonable amount of time to decide to sign to waiver. In addition, the employer must offer something of value to the employee, such as money, in exchange for their signature.
Contact a New York Age Discrimination Attorney
A person’s age does not affect their ability to do their work. Unfortunately, some employers favor younger employees and this can cause layoffs and reduced benefits among older workers.
If you are facing discrimination in the workplace solely because of your age, the employment law attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help. We know the laws that apply and can defend your rights. Schedule a free consultation today. Fill out the online form or call (347) 464-8694.