Retirement ain't what it used to be. Or when. As participation in the workforce has been dropping for those under the age of 55, it has been on the rise for older Americans. So your small business may be faced with the prospect of hiring employees with a few more gray hairs than normal.
Of course, a retiree will cease to become one once they re-enter the workforce. So what are the legal concerns when it comes to hiring, employing, and firing retirees?
State and federal law, most importantly the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants older than 40 based on their age. This means you can't refuse to hire someone just because they're a retiree. The ADEA also applies to advertisements for available positions, applications, and the interview.
While employers can institute age limitations, they may only be bona fide occupational qualifications based on a business necessity. So make sure you treat retirees equally in the hiring process.
Anti age discrimination laws also apply to the course of employment. So employers cannot make decisions regarding compensation, job assignments, promotion or demotion, or work evaluations based on age. Nor may you reduce health or life insurance benefits for older employees.
Not only must ex-retirees be treated just like every other employee in the day-to-day operations of your business, but you also may have a legal obligation to prevent age-based harassment or the creation of an age-hostile work environment.
As you may have guessed by now, the ADEA and other laws are all encompassing when it comes to age discrimination. So you can't fire an employee based on his or her age. Employers are also prohibited from targeting older employees during downsizing or forcing employees to take an early retirement.
Age discrimination has been an age old problem in employment, so make sure your business isn't discriminating against retirees. If you need assistance with an age discrimination case, or in setting up a clear human resources policy for dealing with older employees, you should contact an experienced employment attorney.
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