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Exceptions to the ADEA

In a few very narrow cases, ADEA allows employment-related decisions to be made based on age. Here are examples:

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) These are cases in which an employer must be able to prove that an age limit is necessary for the job. An example might be the case of a model: An employer would not have to hire a 60-year-old as a model or an actor in a televi- sion ad for clothing for teenagers.

Mandatory Retirement of Executives and High-Level Policymaking Employees An employer may require employees to retire if they are at least 65 years old, are entitled to an annual retirement benefit (such as a pension) of at least $44,000, and have been in an execu- tive or high policy-making position for at least two years prior to the retirement date.

Employee Benefit Plans An employer may not deny individuals who are protected by the ADEA the opportunity to par- ticipate in the employer’s benefit plan because of their age. In addition, an employer cannot reduce benefits based on age, unless the cost of providing the benefits to older workers is the same as for younger workers; the plan is insured or based on insurance methods; and the increasing age of the insured person will result in increasing costs.

That is, an employer may reduce an employ- ee’s benefits based on his or her age if the cost of the benefit increases with the age of the employee and as long as the cost of the bene- fits provided to the older worker is not less than that for a younger worker. This is called the equal cost or equal benefit rule.

Mandatory Retirement of Public Safety Officers and Early Retirement Incentives for Tenured Faculty State and local governments are permitted to establish maximum hiring ages and mandatory retirement ages for public safety personnel based on their age. Higher education institu- tions may not force tenured faculty to retire at a certain age, but they are allowed to offer these faculty members early retirement incen- tive plans that reduce or eliminate benefits based on age.


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