“When Is It Time To Take Granddad’s Car Keys Away?” A Tough Workplace Discussion

We are living longer. And working longer. This is good.

And our culture and laws prohibit age discrimination in the workplace. This is also good.

However, as an adjunct to that, we must deal with something that no prior generation has had to deal with (at least not as much): “when is it time to take granddad’s car keys away?”

Do you take them away at a certain set age? Or wait until granddad can’t remember where he is going? Or worse, after he hits a tree, or hits someone else because he cannot see clearly or drive accurately?

This is not a cute or funny question. It’s a tough one.  And one, it seems, which may require a culture-wide philosophical, legal and medical balancing test. You don’t want to “retire” someone who still has the ability to do the job (or drive), but when is it time to do so – because every one of us will face that point in our lives.

Lawyers: when is it time to send the Senior Partner into retirement? It used to be at age 62 or 65 (and it still is in a lot of BigLaw – if for no other reason than a younger lawyer wants the corner office).

Doctors: I just read a post about a professional medical group debating the issue: “When Does the Senior Surgeon Put the Scalpel Away”?  The medical folks are wrestling with the following:

“To be the optimal cardiothoracic surgeon, what matters more: age or experience? And should there be mandatory retirement or cognitive testing at certain age? Mirroring conversations taking place in real-world practice as the surgeon workforce ages, several physicians grappled with these questions during a debate session at the 2020 meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS).”

Their conclusion: “there are no easy answers.”


Into this thicket now wades the EEOC – it announced today that it just sued Yale New Haven Hospital for “implementing a discriminatory ‘Late Career Practitioner Policy.’”

The EEOC’s suit claims that

“the policy requires any individual aged 70 and older who applies for or seeks to renew staff privileges at the hospital to take both neuropsychological and eye medical examinations. Individuals and employees younger than age 70 are not subject to these requirements. … those subject to the policy are required to be tested solely because of their age, without any suspicion that their neuropsychological ability may have declined. By subjecting only these older hospital applicants and employees to the policy, the hospital violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) … [and] also violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) … specifically its prohibition against subjecting employees to medical examinations that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Good luck EEOC!  We know that you are the right agency equipped to handle this thorny issue.

Indeed, maybe you are.

The local EEOC regional attorney noted that, as regards Yale, “There are many other non-discriminatory methods already in place to ensure the competence of all of its physicians and other health care providers, regardless of age.”

Is that true about the rest of us?  Are there such “other non-discriminatory methods already in place?”

If so, where can I find them?

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]