The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a disability system using age as one of many factors in determining benefits is not in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) unless any disparate treatment is “actually motivated” by age. The plaintiff in the case was an employee in a sheriff’s department who chose to continue working after reaching retirement age. He sustained a personal injury while working at age 61 and retired, receiving full retirement benefits.
After learning that younger workers who sustained injuries while working were able to receive additional years of service while calculating their retirements, he filed an age discrimination suit.
The county had a complex formula for calculating retirement benefits for “hazardous duty” workers who sustained personal injuries while working. In order to ensure that they are taken care of, the policy provides those not yet at the age of retirement with credit for enough additional years of service to ensure that they receive full benefits.
The Supreme Court ruled that in this case, the disparate treatment was because of pension status instead of age and was not in violation of the ADEA.