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Are appropriate ADEA rules part of your severance agreement?

Say that you are 48 years old and facing termination along with several other employees because the company you worked for is downsizing. 

You are currently reviewing the termination agreement the company prepared, but you have questions about wordage, ADEA rules and enforceability.

Severance agreement basics

An employer can terminate an “at will” employee at any time, for any reason. However, you signed an employment contract, which included a section relating to severance in the event the company no longer needed your services. Basically, it stated that your employer was prepared to offer you severance pay in exchange for your agreeing to certain limitations as a former employee.

Agreement points for age 40 and over

It is imperative that a severance agreement for a departing employee who is 40 or older contains easy-to-understand language with no legal jargon or complex sentences involved. The employer must also give the former employee 21 days, the federal minimum, in which to review the agreement. Even if the employee signs the document, the company must allow another seven days during which he or she can have a change of heart and revoke the agreement. If the other employees terminated along with you are also 40 or older, the employer must allow 45 days during which anyone in this group can revoke the severance agreement.

Enforceability requirements

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Plan along with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act set the time frames for review in a severance agreement for a departing 40 or older employee. The document must contain a reference to the ADEA and advise the employee to seek legal counsel. The agreement must be in writing and it must not mislead or misinform in any respect.

Next steps

You probably know that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as the Florida Civil Rights Act, offer you protection against discrimination, including age discrimination. You may want to seek legal advice to help you review and understand your severance agreement. You should not accept or sign the agreement if it fails to meet the requirements, including the ADEA rules, for a 48-year-old departing employee.

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