On October 5, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation (A681) amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to expand protections for the state’s older workers. While the NJLAD already prohibited age discrimination, it contained an exception permitting employers to decide not to hire or promote workers over 70 based on their age. The new
Selecting a Retirement Age: Is 65 just a number?
The EAT has issued a decision in the well-known and long-running retirement case of Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes, which dealt with the question:
Was the retirement age of 65 PROPORTIONATE to achieve the firm’s stated aims of retention of staff and workforce planning?
Following the removal of the default retirement age,…
UK Supreme Court rules on two important age discrimination cases
Following abolition of the national default retirement age of 65 last year, the Government left open the possibility for employers to introduce their own “employer justified retirement age” provided the age set was capable of being objectively justified in order to meet the employer’s legitimate aims for introducing this policy. A recent decision of the Supreme Court in Seldon v Clarkson Wright and Jakes (A Partnership) indicates that although it may be technically possible to justify a retirement age, an employer will be taking a big risk in attempting to do so (the Seldon case concerned a partnership but the same principles will apply in an employment case). In another decision heard at the same time, Homer v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, the Supreme Court considered whether an employer’s policy of restricting promotion to employees with a law degree was justified indirect age discrimination against an employee who didn’t have a law degree and didn’t have the time to obtain one before retirement.
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‘Costs plus’ approach to justifying discrimination in the UK endorsed by the Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal in Woodcock v North Cumbria Primary Care Trust has ruled that the savings of costs alone will not, without more, amount to a legitimate aim so as to justify discrimination. In this case, Mr Woodcock was dismissed by reason of redundancy just before his 50th birthday in order to avoid his qualifying for significant enhanced early retirement terms. The Court of Appeal (CA) held that this treatment amounted to discrimination by reason of age but was justified since the legitimate aim of dismissing him was to give effect to his redundancy and to save costs. The aim of the dismissal at that particular age was not purely to save costs and so was justifiable.…
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Phasing out the UK default retirement age: legal update
In our last update, we reported that the UK Government had issued its response to its consultation “Phasing out the Default Retirement Age”, confirming that from 1 October 2011 there will no longer be a default retirement age (DRA) of 65. Draft Regulations were laid before Parliament in February but after much criticism over how they should be interpreted, a revised draft of those Regulations (Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age) Regulations 2011) have been made available and are due to come into effect 6 April 2011. Several of the Government’s original proposals set out in their response to the consultation (and as set out in our last update) have been changed. In particular, changes concern when the last notice of retirement can be served and when the last date it can expire. There was some confusion over retirement of the over 65s but this was a drafting error and has been rectified in the revised draft Regulations.
Confusion about when notice of retirement can expire
Under the current rules, an employee must be given a minimum of six months’ and a maximum of twelve months’ notice to be compulsorily retired. The Government first indicated in its response to its consultation that because the DRA will not apply from 1 October 2011, an employer who wishes to effect a compulsory retirement would need to issue the retirement notice by 30 March 2011 (or before 6 April 2011 under the “short notice” rules). It was understood that this meant that such employees would have to be retired on or before 30 September 2011.
On 17 February 2011, ACAS issued a Guidance update indicating this view was not entirely correct. The ACAS Guidance indicates that employers will in fact have until 5 April 2011 (but no later) to issue notice to an employee of compulsory retirement and that notice (being no less than six and no more than 12 months under the current rules) may run its course and so may expire after the 30 September 2011 deadline. Short notice notifications will not be permitted on or after 6 April 2011. The revised draft Regulations confirm this.…
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UK Government’s final decision on plans to phase out the default retirement age
The UK Government has now issued its response to its consultation “Phasing out the Default Retirement Age”, confirming that the default retirement age (DRA) of 65 will be abolished from 1 October 2011. The last retirement notice under the current procedure should be issued by no later than 30 March 2011, so employers have very little time to prepare. We understand draft Regulations will be laid before Parliament by the end of this month and will come into effect on 6 April 2011.
The Government has stuck to its original proposal that, from 6 April 2011, employers will no longer be able to issue notices of retirement under the DRA procedure. In practice, notices must be issued by 30 March 2011 as the current procedure requires employers to give no less than 6 and no more than 12 months notice of retirement. Notices can be issued after 30 March 2011 and before 6 April under the short notice provisions but the employee could claim compensation of up to 8 weeks’ wages as a result. Where notifications have already been made prior to 6 April 2011, employers will be able to continue with retirement procedure, as long as the retirement is due to take place before 1 October 2011. Retirement notices already issued which provide for a retirement date on or after 1 October 2011 will be void.
No retirements using the DRA procedure will be possible from 1 October 2011. After that date it will only be possible to retire a particular employee at a particular age if the employer can objectively justify that age for retirement. This will be very difficult to do other than in particular professions (such as those requiring significant physical fitness) and will require substantial supporting evidence.
Most importantly for employers, the Government has responded to employer concerns (as communicated by us in our response to the consultation) as regards group risk insured benefits (such as medical insurance, death in service and income protection). The Government’s proposal is to provide an exemption so that employers will be able to exclude employees aged over 65 (such age rising in line with increases in the State Pension Age) from benefits under these schemes, without risk of age discrimination claims being brought. This has been a particular concern for our clients, and so it will come as a relief to many employers who will be able to continue to operate existing schemes without incurring inflated costs. We await the draft Regulations to determine which schemes will be captured by the exemption.
ACAS has now issued guidance for employers “Working without the default retirement age.” While this has been designed to assist employers rather than set statutory guidelines, we recommend that all employers read this carefully. In addition to the new ACAS guidance, the Government recommends that employers look at the guidance already available through the Age Positive Initiative. This gives information on how to review retirement practices, manage performance and flexible approaches to retirement without the use of a fixed retirement age.…
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Can cost justify age discrimination in the UK?
The established view that cost considerations by themselves cannot justify age discrimination in the UK has been questioned in the recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) in Woodcock -v- North Cumbria Primary Care Trusts. The EAT in this case upheld the Tribunal’s decision that a redundancy dismissal timed so as to avoid ‘enhanced’ early retirement rights being triggered due to the appellant’s age, although unfair, did not amount to age discrimination. This was on the basis that it was objectively justified, on grounds other than cost alone. The EAT did not therefore go as far as to depart completely from the established view that cost alone cannot form the basis of an employer’s justification for age discrimination. However, its reasoning did suggest that, in some circumstances, there is no reason why this should not be sufficient to be the basis of justification.…
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Justifying Age Discrimination
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the protection of patients from declining performance of dentists due to their age may be a legitimate aim justifying difference in treatment on the grounds of age. However, whilst setting a maximum practising age of 68 for German national health service dentists is potentially lawful under the EC Equal Treatment Directive, it was not justifiable because German law permitted private dentists to practice beyond 68. The age limit was justifiable, however, on a different basis, namely because it gave opportunities to younger workers to join the health service(see Petersen v Berufungsausschuss für Zähn für den Bezirk Westfalen-Lippe). In another decision, the ECJ held that a German law which restricted applications to join the fire service to those under the age of 30 could be defended as a genuine occupational requirement. (see Wolf v Stadt Frankfurt am Main)
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Supreme Court Gives Employers Significant Win in Age Discrimination Case
On June 18, 2009, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gross v. FBL Financial Serv., Inc., No. 08-441, giving a significant victory to employers facing claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
Jack Gross, an employee of FBL Financial Services, Inc. (“FBL”), claimed that he was demoted because of…
Length of service criteria in redundancy selection can be lawful
In Rolls Royce Plc v Unite the Union, the Court of Appeal has ruled that using length of service as a criterion in a redundancy selection policy can be lawful in some circumstances. Although the use of length of service amounts to indirect age discrimination, it can be objectively justified where it pursues the legitimate aim of maintaining a stable workforce during a redundancy exercise and rewarding loyalty, and is a proportionate means of achieving that aim. In this case, the means of achieving that legitimate aim were proportionate because the criterion was one of many criteria used in the selection process and the means used were consistent with principles of fairness.…
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