Older Volunteer Firefighters Denied Service Credit Due to Ageism, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the Village of North Syracuse, the Town of Cicero and the Town of Clay, as well as the North Syracuse Fire Department, the Cicero Fire Department, Clay Volunteer Fire Department, and the Moyers Corner Fire Department. The EEOC charged the towns and village with age bias against older firefighters.
According to the EEOC's suit (Case No. 12-cv-1465) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, the four departments provide fire services to the towns and village. The departments refused to let volunteer firefighters over age 60 or 62, depending on the department, accrue credit toward a "length of service award," the equivalent of a retirement pension, because of their age, the EEOC said.
"These firefighters, who volunteer to help people when they are in need, are entitled to benefits based on their service, without regard to age or when they were earned," said Michael J. O'Brien, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC's New York District Office.
The EEOC seeks a ruling that the three localities and departments violated the law by refusing to allow firefighters to earn service credit and refused to pay firefighters' lost benefits. The EEOC additionally asks the court to award affected firefighters lost pension credit and an appropriate service award plus interest, and other monetary restitution, including an award equal to the service award, as liquidated damages.
Kevin Berry, the EEOC's district director in New York, said that a clear violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) occurs when an employer prevents employees aged 40 or older from obtaining benefits based on age.
"No state law can be used as a defense against employment discrimination or as an excuse for not paying lost benefits due to ageism," Berry said.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.