Mandatory Retirement

Our workforce is aging and you can bet that mandatory retirement is an issue that employers and unions will be frequently dealing with over the next few years.

The basic legal framework for mandatory retirement was laid out by the Supreme Court of Canada in a series of cases over the last decade and a half. Having said that the law is fluid and that framework is open to change. As an example Ontario has recently changed its legislation with respect to mandatory retirement and it will be interesting to see if there is a ripple effect on the other legislatures. In addition, individual arbitrators who are faced with these issues on a daily basis can strike down a policy in the right circumstance. All it takes is a sympathetic worker, the right contractual language and some creative legal argument and reasoning.

The matter of mandatory retirement was recently examined in Lehigh Northwest Cement Ltd. v. Boilermakers’ Lodge D-277 (Soh Grievance), [2005] B.C.C.A.A.A. No. 169. Arbitrator Taylor gives a thorough review of the current state of the law in this area and upholds the employer’s right to maintain retirement at the age of 65.

An interesting and complex area of law that will no doubt evolve as members of an aging workforce consider their options.

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