Retirement System Penalized Older Firefighters, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - The Brentwood, Long Island Fire District will pay $465,600 to settle a class age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit alleged that between 1990 and 2004, the Brentwood Fire District and Brentwood Fire Department prohibited volunteer firefighters over age 62 from accruing credit toward a "length of service award," the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age. As a result, the senior firefighters kept working but did not receive credit for their service once they reached 62. The EEOC said this age restriction constitutes a 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 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Civ. No. 09-03298 DRH/AKT, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
The consent decree settling the suit permanently eliminates an age restriction on service credit, mandates training for individuals responsible for implementing this program and institutes an anti-discrimination policy. Retroactive payments will be made to 28 volunteer firefighters who had been barred from receiving credit for their service because of their age. The settlement also provides for an increase in monthly pension payments to 20 of those firefighters who are still living.
"The fire department's system penalized older firefighters who continued to actively perform their duties and that was a violation of federal law," said Adela Santos, the EEOC trial attorney assigned to the case.
EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Judy Keenan said, “Volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect the public. They don’t deserve discrimination in return for their hard work and brave service. We are pleased that these firefighters will finally receive appropriate compensation for their years of service."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.