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Can I Be Fired For Exploring Retirement Options?

| Apr 13, 2020 | Age Discrimination, Employment Discrimination, Practice Areas, Wrongful Termination |

Can I Be Fired For Exploring Retirement Options?

Best Ohio Age Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can my boss fire me for expressing interest in retirement at some point? Can the company that I work for fire me because of my age? Can I be forced out of my position to make room for younger employees? Can I sue for wrongful termination if I was fired today after I refused my manager’s suggestion to retire? Can I Be Fired For Exploring Retirement Options?

Employees who are over 40 years of age or older are protected from discrimination because of their age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and under Ohio laws (R.C. § 4112.02(N), R.C. § 4112.05, or R.C. § 4112.14). Specifically, these laws make it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of their age- including retirement age. For more general information about age discrimination from the top Ohio employment discrimination attorneys, check out some of our previous blogs (See: Can I Sue My Employer For Age Discrimination? Help, I Need The Top Employment Discrimination Lawyer In Ohio!; My boss Said I Am too Old To Keep Working! I Need The Top Age Discrimination Lawyers In Ohio!; and When Does My Age Discrimination Claim Get Old?). Our employment attorneys often bring wrongful termination claims on behalf of older employees that are wrongfully fired and replaced with younger workers.

Our employment lawyers have found that a common tactic that employers will use to attempt avoiding age discrimination claims is to put in place policies or otherwise act in a way that attempts to force out employees who are over 40- even if they are eligible for retirement. A great example of this is taken from a TV show that details the acts of the best example of the WORST employer: The Office.

In season four of The Office, there is an episode where the regional branch manager of a paper company in Scranton Ohio, Michael Scott, is visited by a company executive who is describing a new website that the company will be launching. He also brings with him a “Blackberry” cell phone (remember those?) for everyone to begin using. Michael is then visited by an older member of the office crew, Creed Bratton. Creed expresses his worries about the policies being put in place to drive him and some of the older employees out of the office. This would be the perfect time for Creed to call the right attorney and get the advice of the top Ohio employment discrimination attorneys on how to file an age discrimination lawsuit.

But what if it isn’t the company policies that are driving an employer away? What if the employee wants to retire or collect retirement, but still needs to work? Our employment lawyers have already discussed that age is not a valid reason to terminate someone’s employment, and in fact it results in a violation of the law and wrongful termination claim, but what if an employee expresses that they want to retire soon, can an employer terminate them at this point? The answer is unfortunately, possibly yes.

In order to show age discrimination, an employee must be able to show that the conduct of the employer was, in fact, linked directly to the age of the employee. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa discussed this issue in Behr v. AADG, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139353 (N.D. Iowa Aug. 30, 2017):

“Although there may be a correlation between an employee’s age and an employee expressing an intent to retire, they are not identical. An employee’s intent to retire is not inexorably linked to an employee’s age as is retirement eligibility. Theoretically, an employee could retire at 35 or 39 years of age (before being a protected member under the ADEA). Thus, it is analytically possible for an intent to retire to be separate from age, however correlated in fact they may be.” – Behr at page 36.

So, the courts have separated the “intent to retire” from “age” as it pertains to age discrimination. In Behr, the plaintiff-employees, Robert Lauen and Glenn Willier, both expressed their interest in possibly retiring later in the year of 2014. They were both later fired. The defendant stated that they had a legitimate business interest in terminating Lauen and Willier’s employment because it would save the jobs of employees who intended to stay at the company long term, and that the intent to retire was not directly linked to age. The court accepted this legitimate business reason. The court reasons:

“Defendant moves for summary judgment as to the employees it terminated based on an expressed intent to retire, arguing that intent to retire was a legitimate reason not directly related to an employee’s age. For purposes of the summary judgment motion, defendant concedes that plaintiffs can make a pima facie showing of age discrimination for plaintiffs Bob Lauen and Glenn Willier, but argue that plaintiffs cannot show that defendant’s legitimate business reasons were pretextual. Defendant asserts that its legitimate business reason for [terminating Bob Lauen and Glenn Willier] was to salvage the jobs of other employees (younger and older) who wished to remain employed with the company long term…Even if defendant misunderstood these employees’ intentions, terminating them over other employees who had not expressed such an intent was a legitimate business reason, not inexorably related to the employees’ age.” Behr at page 39.

As such, if you are thinking about retirement, you have no obligation to share that information with your employer and a very good reason not to.

In summary, if an employer seeks to get rid of an older employee, they will often implement policies that are designed to drive them out such as the executive from Dunder Mifflin tried with Michael Scott and Creed Bratton. This conduct is unlawful. In fact, telling an employee that they should retire is age discrimination. However, an employee expressing their intent to retire has been found in some cases to not be completely linked to an issue of age. If you feel like you have been fired because of your age and NOT any legitimate business reason, you should call the top Ohio employment discrimination lawyers to receive legal advice regarding a potential age discrimination claim. Additionally, read up on some of our previous blogs about age discrimination (See: Can My Employer Change Company Policy To Force Out Older Employees?; My Employer Will Not Promote Me Because Of My Age; and My Boss Said I Am Too Old To Keep Working!).

If you are an employee over the age of 40 years old and believe that you are being discriminated because you are older than other employees; or have be wrongfully terminated or fired instead of someone younger or were replaced with someone younger than you, you may have an age discrimination claim under Ohio law or the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Even if you are not sure about your age discrimination claim, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our wrongful termination lawyers right now.

Age discrimination claims have very short statute of limitations, which means that you only have a very short amount of time to figure out if you have an age discrimination claim and act. It is illegal for employers to treat older employees differently. At the free initial consultation, you can tell us the specifics about how “my boss made fun of me because of my age” or what happened on “my job.”

Can I Be Fired For Exploring Retirement Options?

Disclaimer:

This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of the age discrimination blog page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “What should I do if I was fired today and replaced with a much younger employee”, “I’m being discriminated against based on my age”, or “Can I sue for wrongful termination”, your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any age discrimination claim questions or any particular employment law issue that you may have. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship for your employment law needs. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.