While there is no law in New Jersey that specifically prohibits an employer from asking an employee when he/she can retire, this type of questioning could be an indication of the employer’s age bias when coupled with other biased nuances, words or actions. I have represented both private and public employees in age discrimination lawsuits where the plaintiffs were specifically asked that exact question, “How many years until you can retire?” before they were terminated and I was successful in obtaining six figure settlements for these Plaintiffs.
This kind of questioning in some instances can be part of a larger pattern of age harassment and age bias against an employee, as is alleged in a recent case brought by numerous school teachers in Atlanta in a federal class action lawsuit as reported by FOX news.
In this federal class action Atlanta school teachers’ case, what the Plaintiffs’ counsel is presenting as part of the theory of discriminatory evidence, is remarkably similar to facts that were alleged by the plaintiffs in age discrimination cases in which I have successfully represented the employees. In the Atlanta case, the teachers are alleging they had years of positive performance evaluations until they received negative evaluations before they were terminated. They are alleging that the Atlanta schools did not allow them the same opportunities and experiences as the younger teachers, such as they were not allowed to go on field trips. In spite of the facts that these teachers taught students whose scores were higher than that of the other teachers, they were nevertheless let go, while younger teachers were retained.
Of course, it is rare for an employer to openly admit they want to get rid of the older workers and replace them with younger workers. Often the employer, in an attempt to avoid a subsequent lawsuit, will attempt to construct a case, document a negative paper trail against the older worker, to later present it as an excuse to terminate the employee, when in reality, the decision to fire the older employee was made without any basis being the quality of the employee’s work, but was based on an illegal bias against the employee. This happens not only in age discrimination cases, but also in disability discrimination cases and other matters involving protected classes, such as race, sexual orientation, and pregnancy status.
In some instances, an employer who is hesitant to terminate the older employee outright, will create an environment that is hostile to the older worker, such as by making ageist jokes and by asking when the employee “intends” to retire, hoping that an environment that is unsupportive to an older worker will drive the older worker to leave their position before they planned on doing so. This type of harassment is also indication of age bias and discriminatory treatment.
What You Can Do
If you believe that your employer used age as the determining factor as to who to keep and who to let go, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in age discrimination. I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in representing older workers.
If you are being subjected to such unlawful workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.
Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in Central, Western and Northern NJ to meet with clients.