How old is too old to work? According to one teacher from South Bend, Indiana, there is no set age. When she feels like she is doing a disservice to the children that she teaches, or herself, she will call it quits. But she refuses to let a school board president decide that for her. And at 80, she does not think her time has come.
The teacher in question filed an age discrimination complaint in the summer of 2012 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As evidence of the discrimination, she has two emails that the president of the school board sent requesting that she and another teacher be "gently escorted out of the classroom" so that two younger teachers could keep their positions rather than being let go. He specifically mentions "two teachers in our system who are 80 (or over) who by all accounts are no longer able to teach adequately."
The teacher says she is perfectly able to continue teaching and has her most recent teacher evaluation from 2010 as proof. Her March 2010 evaluation states that she is able to maintain control in the classroom and teaches effectively, and the evaluator recommends that she be re-employed for the next year.
Sometimes it does seem that younger employees are discriminated against when it comes to downsizing. But it is much more likely that a younger employee will find another position. In his email, the school board president says one of the younger teachers has already been offered a position with another school district and the other one is going to be offered a job elsewhere as well. It goes without saying that the 80-year-old teacher would have had a much more difficult time finding someone to hire her if she had been the one let go.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which was passed in 1967, makes discriminating against anyone over the age of 40 unlawful. Job applicants cannot be asked how old they are, nor can they be asked less direct questions in an attempt to discover their age, such as when they graduated from college or how old their children are. Once employed, workers over 40 cannot be passed over for promotions or better shifts because of their age if they are performing at the same level as their younger counterparts. They also cannot be terminated and replaced by someone younger than they are unless the employer can prove there was a valid reason for firing them.
Whether you are 41 or 80 or somewhere in between, if you think you have been discriminated against at work, you should contact a Kentucky employment law attorney to discuss your situation. If they think you have a case, they may file an age discrimination lawsuit against your employer. The complaint may ask for compensation for lost income and stress; or if you have been terminated, it may ask that you be reinstated to your old position if you wish to return to work there.
Teacher, 80, files age discrimination claim against South Bend schools; South Bend Tribune; Kim Kilbride; October 23, 2012