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Q&A: Can I Delay An Older New Hire’s Start Date to Protect Them?

Question: We recently hired an older individual whose start date is next Monday, but I would like to push back their start date because we’ve just had an employee test positive for COVID-19. Would this be allowed? We will be testing everyone in the workplace, but I know older employees may be at higher risk.

You will need to tread carefully here. Pushing back an employee’s start date because of their age would be a clear case of age discrimination, even if you’re operating with the best of intentions. Age discrimination is illegal under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and a similar state law may apply as well. It’s also generally inadvisable to make assumptions about employees based on their age as these assumptions can lead you to treat employees differently based on their age, risking the loss of trust, hurt feelings, and discrimination claims.

What you can do is explain the situation to any new hires who haven’t started yet and ask them what they’d like to do.

Answer from Daniel, SHRM-CP:
Daniel has over 12 years of experience in the communications, government relations, political advocacy, and customer service fields. He has a BS in Journalism and Communications. He has run a small business of his own and sat on the Board of Directors of several local non-profits. In his free time he enjoys cooking, hiking, camping, and home brewing.

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