Warn supervisors: Never suggest retirement

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management

In the current economy, many employees who might otherwise have considered retiring have decided to keep working for the foreseeable future. Indeed, they may even seek additional promotions to boost their retirement funds so they’ll have a better standard of living when they finally can retire.

These employees may feel threatened if they are passed over for promotions despite years of experience, training and education. By itself, that probably isn’t enough to make them contemplate a lawsuit.

But add a supervisor or manager’s ill-timed suggestion that the employee should retire, and you may end up facing an age discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Arthur Silen, who was born in 1942, worked as a contract analyst for the University of California. He held a post-graduate degree and a law degree and was a member of the California Bar.

Silen claims that twice, with no prompting, his supervisor walked into his office and declared, “You really ought to retire” and “You ought to retire and go and become an arbitrator and make a lot of money.”

Silen wasn’t interested in retirement, and instead applied for a promotion. He wasn’t selected, but was passed over in favor of a woman with no law degree and less than two years’ experience.

He sued, alleging age discrimination.

The judge said the case should proceed, based in part on the supervisor’s spontaneous retirement comments and the wide disparity in experience and education between Silen and the chosen candidate. (Silen v. Regents of the University of California, No. C03490, Court of Appeal of California, 3rd Appellate District, 2011)

Final note: The only proper way to suggest retirement as an option is through education. HR can schedule seminars on retirement preparation and invite all interested parties to attend.

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