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Discriminatory gap in pension law creates lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Centerport Fire District will pay over $350,000 to settle an EEOC age-discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of 22 volunteer firefighters who were denied pension credit for service after age 65.

The lawsuit began as a single 2001 complaint by one firefighter who had served the district for over 20 years. He left and rejoined at age 62 to work as a traffic director. He was told he would not accrue pension benefits for his later service.

His case revealed a discriminatory gap created by a 1988 law granting pension benefits to firefighters beginning at an “entitlement age” set by district voters. The law also prohibited firefighters over that age from accruing new pension credit.

Many fire districts have set aside special funds to cover similar discrimination lawsuits resulting from the law.

Tip: Whether a change in the way pensions are calculated amounts to age discrimination is a tricky question. Employers should always check with their legal advisers before making any changes.  

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