Can I get fired if my job responsibilities change and I am too old to preform them safely?

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Can I get fired if my job responsibilities change and I am too old to preform them safely?

I’ve worked there for 20 years.

Asked on June 7, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a a general matter, an employer is allowed to change employer job responsibilities at will, so long as there is no employment contract to the contrary; and generally, an employer may terminate employees without contracts for any reason, including inability to perform job responsibilities.

The above said, an employer may not discriminate against an employer over age 40, such as by firing him/her because he or she is older. This includes a prohibition on "disguised" termination or other employment discrimination--such as deliberately putting an older employee into a no-win situation, simply to have an excuse to fire him or her.

The question then becomes (assuming you are 40 or older): is the change in your duties a legitimate one, which can be supported by some actual business need, like a shift in your industry, technology changes, a shift in the company's business focus and where it needs to direct its resources, etc.--or is an excuse to terminate you? In the former case (legitimate business needs), what your employer is doing would be legal and you could be lawfully fired...but if there is no legitimate reason for the change, you may be the victim of age-related discrimination and, if you suffer any adverse consequences, may have a legal claim.


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