Do I have to retire when I turn 65?

Dear Benny,
I am a Penn staffer approaching my 60th birthday and was recently asked by a friend whether Penn had a “mandatory” retirement age. I realized I didn’t know the answer. So tell me, when I turn 65, am I required to retire?
—Not ready to retire

Dear Still Working Hard,
You have nothing to worry about.
According to Terri Ryan, spokesperson for Penn’s Division of Human Resources, Penn does not have a mandatory retirement age for either University staffers or faculty. “Actually,” explained Ryan, “I think [forced retirement] might even be illegal.” Ryan is mostly correct. With the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967, the federal government prohibited employers from discriminating against employees and applicants aged 40 and over.

The law applies to all private employers with 20 or more employees, as well as federal, state and local governments, and includes a variety of provisions to protect older workers from having salaries or benefits cut, for example, by employers. The law also specifically prohibits employers from forcing employees to take an early retirement, and even makes companies craft early retirement plans in such a way as to make sure employees are protected. There are just a few exceptions.

After the law was passed, some workers—including law enforcement officers, firefighters, airline pilots and air traffic controllers—remained subject to mandatory retirement because of safety concerns.

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Originally published on November 2, 2006