If an older worker has their job terminated, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) requires employers to inform the worker if this is part of a staff reduction program and who is specifically being affected by it. If there is evidence suggesting that this is primarily targeting older workers, then the worker could avoid signing something that ends their jobs and leaves them with less than they deserve.
Many employers continue to disobey the regulations the OWPBA established decades ago. One potential example that you can see in national news lately comes from the one of the most dominant technology companies in the nation, IBM. The technology consulting firm has come under fire after recent reports indicate they’ve laid off thousands of older workers in the last few years, leading to several former employees filing a lawsuit after finding out.
Some of the workers previously operated at an IBM facility in Boulder. Three of them were older than 55 and lost their jobs in 2016. IBM did not inform the workers about other older employees laid off around the same time since they no longer provided comparator information after 2014. This allowed the company to convince them to sign a severance package designed to prevent them from filing age discrimination claims to the court as a group.
Years later, ProPublica released a report with evidence claiming that ever since IBM stopped providing age comparison information, they have terminated over 20,000 employees who were over the age of 40. IBM states that previous employees can still file age discrimination cases individually, though some of the lawyers on the case believe they emphasized this because it is more difficult to win this lawsuit as an individual rather than a group.
Severance package safety
If there is any lesson to take from this, it’s that workers facing possible termination should review the conditions of their severance packages before signing them. IBM refusing to provide age comparisons is suspicious behavior that not a lot of employees picked up on until years later. If your employee decides to terminate your position, it must be for a fair reason and you should get a reasonable amount of benefits in the process.
With how difficult it is for people over 40 to find a job, firing so many of these workers at once just to get some fresh faces in the office is wrong. Consider contacting an employment law attorney if you face possible termination at your workplace for potentially unethical reasons.