Fire Co. to Pay at Least $180K to Extinguish Age Discrimination Suit
The Bayville Fire Company has agreed to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced. The fire company, as well as the Villages of Bayville, Mill Neck, and Centre Island, will pay a group of about 15 to18 firefighters lost pension money and provide increased monthly pension amounts going forward to several firefighters. Depend¬ing on how many class members are finally definitively identified and the exact damages established for each one, the final total damages are estimated to be from $180,000 to $240,000.
EEOC’s suit alleged that the fire company and villages had refused to let volunteer firefighters over the age of age 65 accrue credit toward a “length of service award” (LOSAP), the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age. As a result, senior firefighters lost pension amounts after they turned 65, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law that protects workers age 40 and older from age discrimination. EEOC filed suit, Civ. No. 07-4472, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
Under the terms of the agreement, the fire company has agreed to provide EEOC with contact information for the firefighters, and EEOC will survey the group to ascertain each firefighter’s lost pension. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollack, in Brooklyn, will oversee the process.
All three villages are located in the Town of Oyster Bay on the North Shore of Long Island, N.Y., and each village approved amending the pension plan.
“The system in effect penalized older firefighters because of their age, and that was simply illegal,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “We welcome the decision to settle this case in a way that ensures that these brave firefighters, who do heroic work, do not receive different retirement benefits simply because of their age.”
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., EEOC’s district director in New York, said, “This case should remind all employers, including municipal employers, that federal law prohibits targeting older workers for discriminatory treatment, including in relation to pensions or retirement benefits.”
Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.