Federal Agency Charged Pension System Was Unfair to Employees Aged 55 and Older; Court Official Will Process and Resolve Claims
SAN JUAN, P.R. – The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) has agreed to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the UPR discriminated against public employees age 55 and older by not allowing them to obtain pension credit because of their age.
The EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Juan (Civil Action No. 06-1660), alleged that prior to 2001 UPR did not allow older employees to become members of pension systems. In 2001 the UPR changed its rules to allow older employees to become members, but required that employees age 55 and older pay, in addition to the employee’s contribution to the retirement system, the employer’s contribution as well.
“In this era of economic uncertainty, retirement security is more critical than ever” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “When that retirement security is undermined by practices that violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the EEOC will fight back to protect the rights of older workers, as we did in this case.”
This lawsuit is related to the EEOC’s lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where the EEOC alleged that the Commonwealth did not allow older employees to become members of retirement systems. The UPR agreement provides that the district court will appoint the same special master (an officer of the court) to process and resolve discrimination claims, which the EEOC estimates will be more than $200,000. Employees who make the employee contributions to their retirement systems will be eligible for a pension; if they are retired, they will receive lost benefits. Retired U.S. District Judge Hector Laffitte will be the special master.
“Not allowing older employees to participate in essential retirement plans is discriminatory,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Michael O’Brien. “The EEOC will vigorously enforce the law and we hope this lawsuit reminds other employers of their obligations under federal law.”
Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, said, “Employers need to be aware of their responsibilities under the age discrimination laws and treat older employees equally.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.