Coyle Browne Law


Can an Employer Force Me to Retire?

You may be approaching what many consider retirement age, but if you’re eager to keep working, it’s natural to wonder if your employer can force you into retirement. This matter is particularly sensitive and is governed by a mix of federal law – especially the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – and any pertinent state laws that protect workers from discrimination based on age.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1967 to protect workers aged 40 and older from workplace discrimination. The ADEA makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on age in various aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, and terms and conditions of employment. In the event you’ve been discriminated against due to your age, contact our San Diego age discrimination attorneys today.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

Under The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees aged 40 and above. FEHA covers a wide range of discriminatory practices, including forced retirement.

What Constitutes Forced Retirement?

Forced retirement occurs when an employer mandates that an employee retire at a certain age, regardless of the employee’s willingness or ability to continue working. This practice is generally prohibited under both ADEA and FEHA, as it constitutes age discrimination.

Exceptions to the Rule of Forced Retirement Being Prohibited

There are limited exceptions where employers might legally enforce retirement policies:

High-Stakes Positions: Certain roles, such as airline pilots or high-ranking executives, may have mandatory retirement ages due to safety or fiduciary responsibilities.

Small Employers: Businesses with fewer than 20 employees may be exempt from some ADEA provisions, although FEHA may still apply.

Understanding these legal protections and exceptions is crucial for ensuring that you are treated fairly.

Mandatory vs. Voluntary Retirement Policies

Employers may have retirement policies, but it is crucial to distinguish between mandatory and voluntary retirement:

  • Mandatory Retirement: Generally prohibited except in specific high-stakes roles.
  • Voluntary Retirement: Employers can offer incentives for employees to retire, such as retirement packages or benefits. However, these incentives must not be coercive.

Employers often provide retirement incentives to encourage voluntary retirement. Employees should carefully consider these offers and understand their rights before making a decision.

Recognizing Coercion and Discrimination

Identifying whether an employer’s actions are coercive or discriminatory is essential for employees to protect their rights. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Pressure to Retire: An employer consistently urging you to retire earlier than planned can be a red flag. 
  • Unfavorable Treatment: Experiencing changes in job responsibilities, demotions, or negative performance reviews after rejecting a retirement offer.
  • Lack of Information: Employers are obligated to provide clear and comprehensive information about any retirement incentives.
  • Disparities in Offers: Different retirement incentives offered to employees of different ages or performance levels without transparent criteria can indicate discrimination.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Creating a work environment that is unpleasant or hostile, prompting an employee to consider retirement.

Employees should remain vigilant and informed to ensure their retirement decisions are free from undue pressure and discrimination.

Filing a Complaint or Claim Based on Forced Retirement

If you decide to take legal action, an employment lawyer can guide you through the process of filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).  They can also assist with filing a lawsuit if necessary.

If you believe that your employment rights are being violated or if there’s pressure pushing you toward unwelcome retirement, it may be in your best interest to reach out for legal help. Contact our employment lawyers in San Diego today to schedule a free consultation.

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