Kentucky: Age and Benefits Collide


Wellesley, MA (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 collide.

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 benefits.

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 dissented.)

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.

Author: Jon Coppelman

This article reprinted with permission from

Read More

Request a Demo

To request a free demo of one of our products, please fill in this form. Our sales team will get back to you shortly.