Can My Boss Fire Me if She Thinks I am "Ready to Retire"?

It is sad, but not uncommon, for many New York businesses to eliminate positions when a particular department or project is canceled due to financial pressures. That is never an excuse to engage in illegal employment discrimination, however. In other words, you cannot use layoffs as a pretext to target employees based on a legally protected characteristic, such as sex, national origin, or age.

Former SUNY Albany Tennis Coach Sues Over Age Discrimination

For example, your boss cannot tell you that you are “ready to retire” and then fire you if you do not agree. Consider this recent federal lawsuit filed against the State University of New York at Albany. A women's tennis coach who was fired after the school abruptly eliminated his team has now alleged age discrimination in violation of New York State law.

The coach's claim is actually part of a larger class action brought by his former players. The players allege SUNY Albany ended the women's tennis program in violation of Title IX, the federal law preventing sex discrimination in higher education. Among other things, Title IX requires all universities accepting federal funds, such as SUNY Albany, to provide female students with athletic opportunities that are “proportional” to male students. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX, previously determined that SUNY Albany's decision to end women's tennis violated the law.

In addition, the present lawsuit alleges that SUNY Albany's athletics director–the man who decided to get rid of the tennis program–publicly told staff and university alumna that the 65-year-old coach was “old enough to retire.” The school “stripped” the coach of his duties and, when he declined to take early retirement in order to save the athletic department more money, declined to renew his contract.

The coach now alleges that his termination violates not only Title IX, but also his federal civil rights and New York State Human Rights Law, which prohibits age discrimination in employment. As the lawsuit notes, the coach's termination was not related to his performance. To the contrary, his team was preparing to compete for a conference championship when the school pulled the plug.

The lawsuit seeks reinstatement of the coach and the rest of the women's tennis program and an order preventing the school from not taking any further action to “eliminate or reduce” any women's athletics program in violation of Title IX. The coach also seeks restoration of his prior “contractual arrangements with the same salary, benefits, and resources” as before his termination.

Do You Need Help From a New York Employment Discrimination Attorney?

As always, a complaint is a statement of allegations. The above case has not been adjudicated, but it does illustrate the type of age discrimination claims we typically see in New York courts. Many employers attempt to eliminate older employees by pressuring them to “retire” before they are ready. If you have been the victim of such age discrimination and need to speak with a qualified New York employment lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today.

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