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Can employees be forced to retire?

Many in the workforce look forward to the day they will one day retire. Retirement, however, should always occur under legal, non-discriminatory circumstances. Unfortunately, many employees feel urged or forced to retire when they hit a certain age despite their competency and willingness to remain in their position.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers over 40 years from forced retirement, but there are many considerations that impact whether a retirement violates an employee’s rights.

Involuntary retirement

The ADEA prevents employers from age discrimination when hiring, firing, promoting and demoting their employees. A forced retirement often occurs when an employer has pressured or intimidated an employee into retirement through warnings of termination or a loss or reduction of benefits if he or she chooses to remain employed.

However, involuntary retirement is legal in several circumstances. Employees in executive positions, public safety sectors and policymaking roles face requirements to retire when they hit a certain age.

The ADEA cannot protect other employees in cases of potential involuntary retirement, such as when a company employs fewer than 20 people, if an employer fires an employee for another reason or if an employer pressures an employee to retire, and he or she does so voluntarily.

Voluntary retirement

Many circumstances permit employers to incentivize retirement for their employees. For example, an employer may offer an increased benefits package to encourage earlier retirement. The employer cannot, however, introduce unfavorable conditions for the employee if they do not accept the offer. These unfavorable conditions may include reduced hours, a decrease in salary, demotion or hostility or exclusion in the workplace.

Workers have a right to remain employed regardless of their age. The choice to retire must be legal, voluntary and made, or anticipated, by the retiree, and never by the employer alone.

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