How are early retirement and severance handled?

My employer offered a voluntary retirement severance for all eligible employees. A list of positions and the ages of those in them throughout the organization was published on the employee website for some reason. The positions listed were generic, i.e. director of marketing, but specific enough that some people holding particular positions are uniquely identified.

Is it legal for an HR site to publicly display such a list? Especially in this time of identity theft? Thank you for your answer.

Ann Kiernan replies:

As part of an early retirement plan or a severance plan done as part of a layoff or restructuring, many employers seek a general release from employees who choose to be part of the plan. That way, employees who take severance payments or early retirement benefits give up their right to file lawsuits against the employer. If the employees are more than 40 years old, the release must comply with a federal law, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA).

OWBPA says that employees can release any potential age discrimination claims, as long as the waiver is “knowing and voluntary.” That means, among other things, that employees have to be told in writing of their right to consult an attorney, the right to have 21 days to consider the severance agreement—45 days if it is a group termination—and the right to rescind the agreement for seven days after they have signed it. If is a group termination, OWBPA also requires that employers provide information about the ages of both terminated and retained employees to those who are considering releasing their age claims. So, the information about employees’ positions ages is not only legal, it’s mandatory.

Thanks for the interesting question.

Posted 08-08-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2016-08-09T00:28:40+00:00

About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.