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Is it normal to waive age discrimination rights for severance?

As an aging member of the workforce, you face many pressures from employers. Often, you may rely on your protections under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to ensure that you do not receive unfair treatment in the workplace simply because you are an older, more experienced employee. When an employer begins considering layoffs, these protections can prove essential to protecting your job.

Understandably, you may have reservations about signing away your rights under the ADEA if an employer asks you to do so in order to receive a severance package. This is a perfectly reasonable concern, but waiving ADEA rights is an accepted practice in many instances, provided that the employer meets certain qualifications in its offer and the terms of the waiver.

It is wise to make sure you have a nuanced understanding of the terms of your contract and the waiver, as well as the terms of the severance package you are considering. If you do not understand these matters in detail, you may sign away important protections or may miss out on important benefits. An experienced attorney is an excellent source of personalized legal insight you can use to keep your rights and priorities secure if you need additional guidance.

Requirements for an employer to request an ADEA waiver

While it is both legal and commonly accepted for an employer to request that an employee waive protections under the ADEA, the employer must meet a number of requirements for the request to withstand legal scrutiny.

In order for you to waive your rights, you must do so voluntarily with sufficient understanding of the matters at hand. To this end, the employer's request must include

  • Clearly written terms
  • Specific requests identifying the ADEA rights the employer wishes you to waive
  • Recommendation that you consult with an attorney
  • Provisions for you to consider the terms for at least 21 days once you receive the offer
  • Provisions for you to revoke the waiver within seven days of signing

Furthermore, the request may only apply to your current employment and may not affect any future employment opportunities. If the request does not include all of these requirements or seeks to waive your rights indefinitely, it is unacceptable, and is unlikely to stand up in court, or may create further legal complications that may compromise your rights and opportunities in the future.

Consider your options carefully

Even if the terms of your employer's request are reasonable, that does not mean that the terms of the severance package area acceptable or fair. Be sure to carefully review all of your options to keep your opportunities protected as you move into a new season in your career.

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