Age discrimination in the workplace is illegal under several federal and California statutes, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Under those laws, employers who are 40 or over are protected from employment discrimination based on age. This includes discrimination in the areas of hiring, firing, promotions, layoffs, compensation, benefits, job assignments and training.

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, mandatory retirement when employees reach a certain age is considered to be age discrimination and is therefore illegal. An employee’s choice to retire is supposed to be voluntary. If the choice is not voluntary, the employee may have a legal claim against the employer.

There are, however, a few exceptions to the federal prohibition against a mandatory retirement age. Two situations in which mandatory retirement is allowed under federal law are:

  • When an employee is at least 65, employed in an executive or high policymaking position for the two years prior to retirement, and is entitled to an immediate retirement benefit from a pension, profit-sharing, or deferred compensation plan which is equal to at least $44,000 a year; or
  • If the employer can show that age is a “bona fide occupational qualification”. This means that the employee’s younger age is reasonably necessary to the operation of the business.

Under California law, forced retirement may also be illegal. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act protects people who are at least 40 from age discrimination at work. The FEHA prohibits mandatory retirement with a few exceptions: tenured faculty members at colleges, if the institution permits reemploying the individual on a year to year basis; any physician employed by a professional medical corporation who is at least 70; and an executive who is entitled to a retirement benefit of at least $27,000 a year.

If you feel that you have been urged to retire illegally, it’s best to consult an employment attorney because there could be multiple factors at play that could make your case complex. For example, earlier this month the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that in a case in which a police officer was urged to retire repeatedly, no age discrimination had occurred. Instead, the court found that although the man was urged to retire, he also had gotten numerous reprimands and poor performance evaluations. Therefore, although he was in his 50’s and was urged repeatedly to retire, his termination could actually be traced to his poor performance rather than his age.

If you have been forced into retirement, or you have been given a choice to retire or be fired, you may have a legal case against your employer. Unless you were a high level executive and received a nice compensation package, or being of a young age was necessary for the job, you may have been illegally discriminated against. You may, however, be required to show that the retirement was not related to other reasons, such as poor job performance.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that productive employees shouldn’t be forced to retire simply because they reach a certain age. If you feel that you have been illegally forced to retire from your job in California, you should take actions to protect your legal rights. Call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She represents clients in employment cases throughout the San Francisco – Oakland area. Call today.

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