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Can firing an older employee qualify as wrongful termination?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2023 | Employment Law

Employers can dismiss an employee for several reasons. If you fire an employee who’s 40 years old and above, it is possible that said employee might claim wrongful termination based on age discrimination.

What is wrongful termination?

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer dismisses an employee for reasons and in a manner that is against the law. There are several ways in which the law might consider termination illegal, one of which is if the dismissal happened because of discrimination.

Federal law protects workers 40 years and older from discrimination based on age. This protection prevents employers from firing more senior employees, mainly if their age does not prevent them from effectively and efficiently fulfilling their roles.

What can you do about a wrongful termination charge?

Sometimes, it might seem like you discriminate against an employee even when you are not. For example, you dismissed an older employee and just so happened to replace them with someone younger. Or you could have reduced your workforce, and most of those that remained in your staff were younger individuals.

Employers who find themselves charged for such incidents must generally be able to prove that they terminated employees because of other factors and not their age. For instance, employers may prove that the dismissal occurred because the employee breached their employment contract or did not meet the company’s expectations.

Employment law is often complex and constantly changing. Understanding employees’ rights and documenting significant events, such as terminating workers, might help employers avoid legal trouble.