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Phoenix school district to pay $138K for age bias in early retirements

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A Phoenix school district has reached a $138,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case in which the district had been charged with age discrimination because it granted greater economic benefits to younger retirees.

The EEOC had charged that an early retirement incentive plan adopted by Murphy School District No. 21 in the 1980s violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by providing greater economic benefits to younger retirees based on their age.

School district attorney Bradley Gardner, a partner with law firm Udall Shumway P.L.C. in Mesa, Arizona, said at the time the lawsuit was filed that the school district would have to lay off teachers to comply with the EEOC’s demands. That is no longer the case with this negotiated settlement, he said. He added, “No one knows with certainty why they adopted (the policy) to begin with,” but the school district is longer using it, he said.

The EEOC said in its announcement Tuesday that the settlement will “substantially compensate” more than two dozen retired employees. The agency said it also requires the school district to change its policies about age discrimination and provide training on the ADEA to its employees and administrators.

“Early retirement incentive plans which are facially discriminatory need to be changed,” Phoenix-based EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said in a statement.

“Discrimination on the basis of age is simply illegal. People in their 60s should not be penalized merely because they want to continue working. A retirement plan which states, for example, that employees 52 years old will receive a greater economic benefit than an employee 61 years old for retiring early is discriminatory on its face,” said Ms. O'Neill.