According to AARP, 93% of adults in the workplace over the age of 50 believe that discrimination based on age is common in the workplace today. In 2021, age discrimination was one of the most commonly filed charges of employment discrimination with the EEOC. Many employees are familiar with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits age discrimination against employees 40 years and older who work for employers with at least 20 employees. However, you may be less familiar with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA).
The OWBPA provides workers over the age of 40 with additional protections in the workplace. Understanding what rights and protections you have under this federal law can help you fight for the treatment you deserve. Brown Kwon & Lam can help.
What is the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act?
The OWBPA is an amendment to the ADEA that further protects older employees from discriminatory actions in the workplace. Like the ADEA, the OWBPA protects employees 40 years old and older who work for employers with at least 20 employees.
The OWBPA makes several actions illegal, including:
- Using age to discriminate against employees regarding their benefits.
- Targeting older employees during layoffs and staff reductions.
- Not following certain procedures when having older employees waive their rights.
Protections Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act
Benefits, such as health insurance, life insurance, and retirement benefits, are an important part of the compensation employees receive. The OWBPA makes it illegal to discriminate against employees regarding benefits. This typically requires employers to provide all employees equal benefits, regardless of their age.
However, understanding the benefit protections the OWBPA provides can be complicated. In some cases, employers may be able to reduce certain benefits for older employees if it’s justified by substantial cost considerations. Employers must spend equal amounts on these benefits for older and younger employees, although this may result in older employees receiving less. Older employees may also receive lesser benefits, in some cases, when they receive other additional benefits that make up the difference.
Some employees may be offered waivers that require them to give up their right to sue their employer in return for an incentive to voluntarily leave the company. This could mean the employee receiving a larger severance package than other employees would receive, which could make leaving the company more compelling. However, these waivers are often given to older employees, as they often have the highest salaries, therefore, the employer saves the most when these employees no longer receive their salaries.
To protect themselves from age discrimination claims, employers often require employees to forfeit their right to sue when they are provided incentives to leave. The OWBPA provides various guidelines regarding these waivers. If an employee signs this waiver to accept incentives to leave the company, they must do so knowingly and voluntarily. This means employers must be very careful when drafting these waivers to ensure employees can consent to giving up this right. If waivers aren’t clear enough to allow employees to knowingly and voluntarily consent to the terms, they may be considered invalid.
Contact Brown Kwon & Lam if You’ve Experienced Age Discrimination
Many employees experience age discrimination during their careers, despite the various laws that prohibit these actions and behaviors. If you’ve been treated unfairly due to your age, you need an age discrimination attorney. At Brown Kwon & Lam, our team knows how important it is for you to be judged on your skills and the value you bring to your company, not characteristics such as your age.
Contact us to see what your options are if you believe you’ve experienced age discrimination at work.