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Should I waive my rights against age discrimination?

In today's changing workplace, older employees often feel pressure to move on and make room for younger, cheaper employees, even though "older" employees may be only in their late thirties or early forties. Those who are in the workforce in their fifties, sixties and beyond feel incredible pressure to adjust to rapid changes. They may face outright discrimination because of their age.

On a basic human level, this attitude toward employees who are older and more experienced seems short-sighted. After all, unless we pass away while still young, all of us grow old eventually. Beyond that, however, age discrimination is illegal and can result in serious punishment for an employer.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, or ADEA, places strict protections around the rights of aging workers. However, some employers seek to get around these protections by asking their employees to sign a waiver giving these rights away.

If you find yourself considering an ADEA waiver given to you by an employer, make sure you examine it before you make a final decision.

Is it ever acceptable to waive ADEA rights?

Not all ADEA waivers are automatically bad deals, but it is important to know exactly what you are giving up and how it may affect your future employment opportunities. In order for a waiver to hold up legally, it must be signed knowingly and voluntarily. You must understand the terms of the waiver and sign it because you choose to do so, not because your employer or some other party coerces you.

The law requires a valid waiver to meet a number of qualifications. To hold up in court, a valid waiver must:

  • Identify specific rights protected under the ADEA that the employer wishes to waive
  • Only apply to present rights, not future rights or potential future claims
  • Be in writing and be readable
  • Offer the recipient something of equitable value in exchange for rights waived
  • Advise the recipient to seek legal counsel
  • Allow the recipient to consider the waiver for at least 21 days
  • Allow the recipient to revoke the waiver for at least seven days after signing

If you find yourself considering an ADEA waiver, make sure that you clearly understand how it may impact your future employment options. You may have several legal options available to keep your rights and privileges secure while you continue your employment journey wherever it may lead.

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