Samuel J. Cordes & Associates
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Cost savings are not a legal justification for age discrimination

As the baby boomers age, people are staying in the workforce long past the traditional retirement age of 65. On one hand, this keeps experience and skills in the marketplace. On the other hand, older employees tend to be better compensated than new hires, leading some employers to question the bottom-line impact of an aging workforce. Some employers are also concerned about the health of older employees, and may seek ways to subtly (or not so subtly) push those workers out the door. This often conflicts with employment discrimination laws, which prohibit employers from making hiring, firing or promotion decisions based on age.

To put it simply, some employers apparently don't like the idea of an aging workforce, and have chosen to solve the "problem" in ways that can only be described as discriminatory.

Reports indicate that the aging population has created a sort of bubble of wrongful termination suits. A few landmark cases on this issue have already been heard; including one handled by our firm's own Samuel Cordes. He successfully argued a case for a client who had been fired by Westinghouse Electric Corp. based on age. An internal memo from the employer was quoted in the opinion of the court, calling older employees "blockers" of opportunity for younger workers, saying that the company should get the older employees out of the way.

Some companies attempt to do this through voluntary retirement packages. Mr. Cordes told reporters recently that age discrimination cases have increased significantly, perhaps because employers are trying to decrease costs by unfairly targeting older, more experienced and better paid workers for termination.

Cost savings are not a reasonable justification for firing an older employee if the decision was made solely on the basis of age. Older employees deserve the same opportunities as anyone else in the workforce. People who have been fired because of their age should not be afraid to assert their rights.

Source: Pittsburg Post-Gazette, "Are aging lawyers ready for what's next?" Drew Singer, March 19, 2012.

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