Yankee Stadium will never be the same

On the surface, the premise of this column would seem to be a thinly-veiled attempt to work in the retirement of the greatest closer that ever played baseball — Mariano Rivera — into a post.

But I’ve actually had a few discussions about the topic of retirement in recent days and the two themes seem to work very well together.

If you watched the Yankees game last night, you also saw how to handle an employee’s retirement with class — which boosts morale for the entire organization.  It’s inspiring. After all, if that’s how you treat people are leaving, that must say a lot about you.

But most organizations don’t have a Mariano Rivera retiring this weekend.

Instead, suppose you had a 35 year employee, who you believe is near retirement, but you’re not sure.  You want to make some budget arrangements and you also want to be sure there is an employee who is trained who can take over for that employee when he or she retirees.  Can you, as an employer, ask the employee about his or her retirement plans?

A HR.com article from back in 2004 tackles this question head-on: “Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prevents employers from forcing older workers to retire, it does not prevent them from making inquiries that are non-coercive. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and, hopefully, age bias lawsuits.”

A more recent HRE Online article provides some additional case cites and support for the idea that you can ask employees about their retirement plans.  But it also stresses that you ought to be pretty careful when doing so as that remark can be misconstrued and distorted later on.

Once an employee has set his or her plan in motion, try to work with that employee and consider what you can do to thank the employee for their years of service. Whether that is a gift, or some contribution to a party, remember that it is the small stuff that matter.

As for Mariano Rivera, the Yankees let him set his own schedule for retirement.  He left Yankee Stadium with tears in his eyes. And ours.  This is one retirement that seems like it should be illegal.