The general trend in today’s job market is toward youth and vitality, rather than age and wisdom. Sometimes, this can put older workers in a difficult position. Some professions have opted to address this issue by requiring workers of a certain age to retire, regardless of health or seniority. In fact, this practice is illegal in most situations, though there are exceptions. If you are being forced out of your job, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to see what options you have.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The law that effectively restricts mandatory retirement policies is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which was modified in 1978. Before the changes, there was no regulation restricting forced retirement, and as such, many were forced out of their jobs, sometimes with very little severance or retirement pay. However, mandatory retirement was not outlawed entirely (with rare exceptions) until 1986.
The exceptions to this law are to be found in fields that are either extremely dangerous (such as police work or fire-fighting), or require extraordinary amounts of physical and mental acuity (such as airline pilots). Mandatory retirement in these fields is considered justifiable because in these fields, a younger age is considered to be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). A BFOQ is an element or characteristic that is necessary to perform a task, to the point where applicants who lack that particular element will not be considered. True BFOQs are rare, but they do exist.
Have I Been Discriminated Against?
While the ADEA’s points are fairly clear, it can still be somewhat difficult to determine whether or not you have been discriminated against. This is primarily because while it is against the law to favor a worker under 40 at the expense of an older worker, it is not against the law to favor a younger (but still over 40) worker at the expense of someone older. It is also sometimes difficult to ferret out ageist policies if they are not discriminatory on their face. In other words, sometimes a policy designed to be facially neutral may wind up being discriminatory in practice.
The best answer is to speak with a knowledgeable attorney on the subject. If you still think there are grounds, filing a charge with either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the next step. The agency, whichever you choose, will likely try to mediate a solution between you and your employer. If this is not successful, the agency will likely give you the letter you need to bring suit in a South Carolina court.
Contact An Experienced Employment Discrimination Lawyer
Because the issue can be quite complex, anyone potentially facing age discrimination in the workplace would do well to consult a lawyer. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience in handling age discrimination cases, and is happy to assist you with yours. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.