Company Had Barred Firefighters Over 65 From Receiving Service Credits in Retirement Benefits Program, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK – The Bayville Fire Company on Long Island has agreed to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The fire company, as well as the Villages of Bayville, Mill Neck, and Centre Island, will pay a group of about 15-18 firefighters lost pension money and provide increased monthly pension amounts going forward to several firefighters. Depending on how many class members are finally definitively identified and the exact damages established for each one, the final total damages should be $180,000 to $240,000.
The EEOC’s suit had alleged that the fire company and villages had refused to let volunteer firefighters over 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. The 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 the EEOC with contact information for affected firefighters, and the 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, New York, 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., the EEOC’s district director in New York, added, “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.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws banning workplace discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.