DEC 03 2008

Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Miscellaneous

Someone asked, “We have a public employee who’s nearly 90 that continues to work, but is slow, occassionally incontinent, and, in management’s opinion, ready to be let go. What do I do?”

I answered, “Your municipality is lucky to have a nonagenarian that is willing and able to work. An employee’s decision about when to retire should be made voluntarily by the employee in consultation with his or her family. If the employee is performing at a subpar level, the same standards for all other workers should apply–progressive discipline, up to and including termination for cause.

In my opinion, a greater problem for public entities are mandatory retirement age rules. In most private sector jobs, these were eliminated as a result of anti-age-discrimination laws beginning in the 1960s. Mandatory retirement age rules still prevail in some, mainly public-sector, occupations–state and local police (50-60) and firefighters (50-60), federal firefighters (57), federal law enforcement and corrections officers (57), air traffic controllers (56), and (private sector) airline pilots (60). Such mandatory retirement ages were introduced primarily to ensure safe and effective work, but, under current working conditions and worker health and aging demographics, they are outdated and inefficient for society. These are the rules that should be changed, not ad hoc rules created to put 90-year-olds out to pasture.”

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