Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Minnesota Department of Corrections, No. 10-CV-2699, 2011 BL 206583 (8th Cir. Aug. 10, 2011) The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that an "Early Retirement Incentive Program" (ERIP) that offered specified benefits to employees aged 50 to 55 was discriminatory on its face in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. Further, the Court concluded that, because the ERIP was not consistent with the relevant purpose of the ADEA, it was not protected under the ADEA's safe harbor provision for ERIPs set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(2)(B)(ii). The Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) included an ERIP provision, also known as the "age 55 cliff," in its collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs). The ERIP provided that employees who retired at age 55, and were covered by one of DOC's retirement plans, were eligible to receive an unreduced continuation of the employer's contribution toward their healthcare insurance premiums until they reached age 65. This contribution was intended to encourage early retirement for employees in this age group. Meanwhile, any employee between the ages of 50 and 55 who elected to retire received lesser benefits. Finally, any employee older than 55 who chose to retire received no continuation of employer contributions. Amid growing concern that a court might consider this ERIP unlawfully discriminatory, other state agencies and their respective employee unions eliminated the ERIP from their CBAs. Only the Minnesota Law Enforcement Association (MLEA), the union representing all non-supervisory DOC personnel, refused to negotiate any modification to the ERIP. Consequently, the EEOC sued DOC and MLEA for injunctive and monetary relief, alleging that their ERIP unlawfully discriminated against employees on the basis of age in violation of the ADEA. The district court granted summary judgment in the EEOC's favor. EEOC v. Minnesota Department of Corrections, 702 F.Supp.2d 1082 (D.Minn. 2010). Only MLEA appealed.
Because Employees over 55 Were Ineligible for Early Retirement Benefits, ERIP Was Discriminatory on Its Face
ERIP Failed to Meet ADEA's Safe Harbor Requirements
Lawful Early Retirement Incentive Program
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