California Retirees Win $250 Million in Benefits; Settlement Reached in Age Discrimination Case
Byline: Jeffrey Sparshott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
More than 1,700 retired state and local public-safety officers in California won an estimated $250 million in benefits in an age discrimination case against the state, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday.
"This is the largest [settlement] in the history of the commission," said Linda Li, a spokeswoman for the commission, a government panel that enforces employment law.
The case sends a signal to states that the commission will enforce federal anti-discrimination laws, said David Offen-Brown, a senior trial attorney with the commission's San Francisco office.
Individuals cannot sue states for damages, so in employment discrimination cases the commission has to pursue them, Mr. Offen-Brown said.
In the California case, seven disabled public-safety retirees filed a lawsuit in 1995 against the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers), claiming age discrimination.
Calpers was enforcing a California law that reduced disability retirement benefits in proportion to an employee's age at the time he or she was hired.
One of the case's original plaintiffs, for example, joined a local police force at age 43 and received a disability payment that was 32 percent of his salary after he suffered permanently disabling injuries.
Had he joined the force at age 30 or younger, he would have received half of his salary as a disability benefit.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took up the age discrimination case in 2000, and Calpers settled yesterday.
The California retirement system was the only state system open to such specific age discrimination charges, commission officials said.
"The overall significance is that state governments know that the EEOC will continue to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws on a selective basis," Mr. …