(CompNewsNetwork) - The Insider continually tracks the impact of an aging workforce.
There's no lack of material! Here's an interesting case from the Bluegrass state, where
the issues of working past retirement age and the calculation of disability benefits
Charles Lickteig was a deputy sheriff in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was eligible for
retirement age at 55, but chose to continue working, in order to better support his
school-aged children. At age 61 he was unable to continue, due to a deteriorating vertebra,
arthritis, nerve damage, and Parkinson's disease. (His disability is apparently not
directly related to the law enforcement work he carried out for 18 years.) He filed for the
special disability retirement benefits available to public employees engaged in "high
hazard" work. Kentucky Retirement Systems denied his request for disability retirement,
granting him instead the retirement benefits available to workers engaged in ordinary work.
Under the state system, only workers under 55 are eligible for disability retirement
Lickteig's Attorneys brought his case to the EEOC, arguing that the Kentucky plan
violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967. Under the Kentucky
approach, the benefits for employees who become disabled would vary by age: two employees,
each with the same total time of service but of different ages, would receive different
benefits. A worker below the age of 55 would always receive benefits at least equal to and
in most cases greater than those granted to workers over 55.
The District Court and a panel of the Sixth Circuit at first concluded that the Kentucky
plan did not violate the ADEA. While the approach took age into account to determine
benefits, it did not attach any stigma to age itself. The Sixth Circuit reheard the case en
banc and reversed, holding that the simple act of treating younger disabled retirees better
than older ones was sufficient to make out a prima facie ADEA violation. (Four of 12 judges
At this point, Kentucky has been ordered to revisit the calculation of Lickteig's
benefits and to remove the traces of age discrimination from its retirement system.
Kentucky has appealed, asserting that the EEOC and Court rulings violate state sovereignty.
Now the case moves to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will sort out the territorial and age
issues. (The EEOC brief can be found here.) As with every issue reaching this particular
court, it will be fascinating to see how they rule.