Employers know that people tend to experience a greater number of health problems as they get older. Because of this, it typically costs more to provide health insurance to older workers than it does to provide it to younger and healthier employees. But, this is no reason for an employer to deny an employee health benefits or offer them fewer benefits. In fact, denying someone of health benefits or offering them less than what is offered to younger employees solely because of their age is illegal.
Federal Laws & Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prevents employers from discriminating against employees who are over the age of 40 based on their age. This law does not provide any protections for workers that are under the age of 40. The ADEA is a federal law that applies to all private employers with at least 20 employees. It also applies to local, state, and federal governments, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
In 1990, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to include specific terms that protected older employees’ rights to benefits. The OWBPA prohibits employers from denying older workers the same benefits that are awarded to other workers simply because of their age. However, similar to many other employment laws, there are a number of exceptions to this rule.
When Are Unequal Benefits Considered Age Discrimination?
It can be difficult to determine if you are being unfairly and illegally denied benefits because of your age. To answer this question, ask yourself this series of questions:
Are the benefits that I am offered any different than the benefits offered to younger employees?
There are several factors that you should consider when comparing the benefits offered to older employees to the benefits offered to younger employees. First, think about the type of benefits offered to employees while they are employed with the company and as severance pay. If an older employee is not offered dental or vision insurance, but a younger employee is, this is one example of unequal benefits. If a 60-year-old employee is only offered health insurance for two weeks as part of a severance package, but a 30-year-old employee is given six weeks of coverage, these benefits are not the same.
Next, think about the amount of benefits offered to each group of employees. If a younger employee is offered a $50,000 life insurance policy, but an older employee is only offered a $20,000 policy, the benefits are not equal.
It’s important to note that you must compare the benefits that you are offered to the benefits offered to a younger, but similarly situated employee. It is not fair to compare your benefits to those offered to the CEO or CFO. Instead, find a younger employee who has worked for the company for about the same amount of time that you have or who makes around the same amount of money.
If the benefits are the same, there’s no issue. If the benefits are not the same, this does not automatically mean that you are a victim of age discrimination. Continue asking the questions below to determine if you are being discriminated against.
Is my employer spending the same amount on my benefits than they are on benefits provided to younger workers?
The equal cost defense may apply to employers who offer life insurance, health insurance, or disability benefits to their employees. To use this defense, the employer must be able to prove that they spend the same amount of money on benefits provided to older workers than they do on the benefits provided to younger workers. Employers must also be able to show that the benefits offered to employees become more expensive as employees age. If the price does not vary depending on the employee’s age, this defense is not valid.
Even if fewer benefits are provided to older workers, if the employer is spending the same amount, they may not be violating the law due to the equal cost defense.
Does the law permit an offset?
The ADEA will allow an employer to offset benefits offered to older employers in certain situations. This is permissible only if the older employees can receive other benefits, either from the employer or another source, that make their total benefit package equal to the benefits offered to younger employees. Some examples of other benefits include Medicare or Social Security.
After answering these questions, it should be fairly obvious as to whether or not you are being illegally discriminated against because of your age.
File A Complaint With the EEOC
Victims of age discrimination should not hesitate to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Victims only have 180 days from the date of the incident to file a claim with the EEOC, so it’s important to move quickly so you don’t lose your chance to hold your employer accountable. But first, it’s recommended that victims contact an employment law attorney to discuss their case and go over all of their available legal options.
Have you been denied health benefits because of your age? If so, seek legal representation from an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. The employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates are ready to seek justice against your employer and recover compensation on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.