America is aging, and so is its workforce. Older Americans increasingly choose to remain on the job, or at least take on a part-time position for something to do for a bit of spending money. A full one-third of the workforce in the United States will be over 55 years of age less than three years from now, according to a recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor. Chances are, you aren’t immune to the progression of time yourself–and as a small business owner you probably hope to retire one day. Some people sell their business, others turn it over to their family, while others wish to see it continue to grow with new talent at the helm.
When taking this route, it is vital that you are aware of the risks to this approach. Lawsuits alleging age discrimination are not infrequent, particularly when promoting or hiring executive management staff in a highly-competitive workplace. How can you keep your business protected and avoid such a lawsuit in the first place? A Law.com article provides the following tips:
Loose lips sink ships. The office rumor mill spares no one. If you give voice to your musings of hiring or promoting younger and cheaper talent–particularly if those musings are denigrating of your more mature staff–you had might as well paint a target upon your chest. Several court cases over the last year have handed large victories to employees could cite examples of their managers expressing a wish to rid the ranks of “white-haired” men and women.
Don’t use the “R” word. Similarly, bringing up the subject of retirement plans with potential candidates can land you in equally hot water if the inquiry is “unnecessary or unreasonable.” Yes, you do have the right to pose the question as a part of business succession planning, but employers need to avoid anything that may be construed as ageist language.
Pick from a large pool with a success training program. Expanding the skillset of your employees not only makes them more valuable to your business, it ensures that you have plenty of options to choose from when thinking of business succession–and thus lower risk from any individual complaint.
Document performance regularly. Once a year is the maximum time span that should pass between performance reviews, particularly as you begin thinking of succession. Charting an employee’s performance can alert you to those candidates that are the most promising and those you may wish to avoid–and data to point to as evidence for the impartiality for your decision in case of a lawsuit! Ask your employees about their short- and long-term goals and you may find that they fit into your company’s future plans.
If you conduct business succession planning as part of your company’s routine business practices, you stand a better chance of avoiding an age discrimination claim when it comes time to make management changes.
If you’re a small or mid-size business owner, call us today at (612) 206-3701 or fill out our contact form to schedule a business consultation session.
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