Senior citizens face unique issues everyday; one devastating issue is age discrimination in the workplace. Age discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual due to their age. It can happen in employment, housing, and many other ways. This under-acknowledged form of discrimination happens frequently.
Older workers are more experienced and generally perform their jobs well, but also tend to demand higher salaries and require higher benefit costs than their younger counterparts. Due to the rising cost of health insurance benefits, it is more expensive for an employer to pay an older worker than a younger worker. This creates a disadvantage for older workers searching for employment; more importantly, those seniors aiming for retirement and working for a company facing financial hardship have legitimate fear of losing their jobs–there is no first in-last out rule in employment except in some union contracts. It’s not about what’s right or fair on the individual level; it’s about profits. Companies find ways to fire more expensive employees in favor of less expensive employees, and the more expensive employees tend to be older workers. Companies may avoid hiring or lay off older workers in an attempt to escape higher wages and salaries, as well as higher medical costs, and pension contributions. To protect older workers against this discrimination, both state and federal governments enacted a number of laws to provide governmental assistance to protect against, and prohibit, age-based discrimination. These laws include: the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Age Discrimination Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, American Disability Act, Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), and the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act. These acts provide a right to a legal remedy for individuals subject to age discrimination. Unfortunately, North Carolina has created a dangerous situation for individuals seeking recovery for age discrimination.
North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (“HB2”) goes way beyond who can use certain restrooms. The broad language of HB2 bars private civil discrimination cases based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability from being heard by State Courts. This is substantial because HB2 now prevents an individual (40 years or older) who wishes to sue over age-based discrimination from bringing the case before a State Court of North Carolina. Thus leaving Federal Courts as the only option to bring such claims. Federal courts are more expensive, take longer to resolve cases, and apply different laws than state courts. This was not an oversight on the part of the North Carolina legislature; it was clearly intended to favor big business by making it more difficult for any discrimination lawsuit to be filed in our state courts. The transgender bathroom issue was just the legislature’s way of getting people to look in another direction while they radically change the law protecting every class of people who have historically been discriminated against, including seniors.
The key take-away after HB2 is to recognize that one’s expected retirement age is not necessarily controllable by the employee. Although many individuals anticipate retirement, the likelihood of interference is rather high. Sudden health changes or disabilities or being let go from a job as a result of a company’s reorganization due to merger or losses or country wide economic recession (lawful or unlawful) can adversely impact a person’s retirement goals. This is especially true in cases where people are living paycheck to paycheck, depositing insignificant amounts into an IRA, supporting their children into adulthood or procrastinating with retirement planning. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced or in-crisis planner, retirement planning is extremely important. The best plan protects an individual’s assets and preserves enough money so that there is enough to live on in retirement.
If you or your loved ones have questions about retirement planning, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we are experienced attorneys who offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars. Learn more through our website at www.wgalaw.com, or call us at (919) 256-7000.
Attorney Bill Alexander discusses these issues and more every Saturday morning on W.G. Alexander & Associates’ radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 680 WPTF (AM). Be sure to listen from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.