U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Long Island Fire District Had Barred Firefighters From Receiving Service Credits in Retirement Benefits Program, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK – The Oyster Bay Fire Department 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 department, as well as Atlantic Steamer Fire Company No. 1, the Town of Oyster Bay, and Villages of Oyster Bay Cove, Laurel Hollow, Mill Neck and Cove Neck, together will pay at least 31 firefighters lost pension money totaling $279,600 and provide increased monthly pension amounts going forward to several firefighters. All four villages are located within the Town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County, on the north shore of Long Island, N.Y.
The EEOC’s suit had alleged that the defendants refused to let volunteer firefighters over age 62 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 62, 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 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Civ. No 09-3297, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“The system in effect penalized older firefighters because of their age, and that was simply illegal,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Elizabeth Grossman. “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.”
Sunu P. Chandy, EEOC trial attorney 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 http://www.eeoc.gov