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GABARCZYK v. BD. ED. D. OF POUGHKEEPSIE

May 24, 1990

MARION T. GABARCZYK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF POUGHKEEPSIE AND POUGHKEEPSIE PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conboy, District Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Marion T. Gabarczyk brought this action against defendants the Board of Education of the City School District of Poughkeepsie ("the Board") and the Poughkeepsie Public School Teachers Association ("PPSTA"), alleging that defendants discriminated against her on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA" or "Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (1976), and that the PPSTA violated its duty of fair representation to her, pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 ("LMRA"), 29 U.S.C. § 185.

BACKGROUND

In June, 1985, at the age of 61 and with 21 years of credited service, Gabarczyk retired from teaching in the City of Poughkeepsie School District ("School District"). While she was employed with the School District, the terms and conditions of her employment and certain retirement benefits were determined by collective bargaining agreements negotiated between the Board and the PPSTA. When Gabarczyk retired, the collective bargaining agreement in effect covered the years from July 1, 1983 to June 30, 1986. Under this agreement, "the 1983-86 agreement," defendants offered an incentive to retire to teachers 55 years of age, with 15 or more years of credited service at retirement. The retirement incentive, set forth in Article XIII of the 1983-86 agreement, provides:

  Section 1. All unit members who during the term of
  this Agreement will reach the age of fifty-five
  and have 15 or more years of credited service,
  upon retirement, shall be entitled to a retirement
  incentive of 75% of their last year's salary
  provided that notice of retirement is given in
  writing at least six months in advance of the
  retirement dates provided below.

Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment ("Pltf.Mem."), PX 12 at 22-23. Because Gabarczyk was older than 55 and had more than 15 years of service when she retired, she was denied the retirement incentive.

As defendants point out, if Gabarczyk had retired in 1980-81, she would have been eligible to receive the retirement incentive benefit provided in the 1980-83 collective bargaining agreement ("1980-83 agreement"), the first agreement to provide such a benefit. Pursuant to the 1980-83 agreement, "[a]ll unit members who are or will become 55 years of age or older and have or will have 15 years of credited serviced [sic] on or before June 30, 1981, shall be entitled to a retirement incentive of 75% of their last year's salary. . . ." Pltf. Mem., PX 9 at 22. Thus, all teachers who were 55 or older and who had 15 or more years of credited service had a one-time opportunity to receive the retirement incentive, provided they retired by June 30, 1981. This "window of opportunity" was eliminated from the 1983-86 agreement; otherwise, little incentive to retire early would have been presented to teachers, as the incentive would effectively have become a retirement bonus.

Gabarczyk initially elected to retire in 1981, and receive the retirement incentive payment under the 1980-81 agreement. Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant, Board of Education of the City School District of Poughkeepsie's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment ("Board Mem."), DX B. However, by letter dated January 14, 1981, Gabarczyk withdrew her resignation. Id., DX C. At the time, Gabarczyk was informed by James B. Clarke, Jr., then Associate Superintendent of the Board, that she would no longer be eligible for the 1980-83 retirement incentive, although it is not clear whether she was told she would be ineligible for all future retirement incentives. Deposition of Marion T. Gabarczyk, taken on September 7, 1988 ("Gabarczyk Dep.") at 91-93. When Gabarczyk retired in 1985, and sought to receive the incentive payment under the 1983-86 agreement, Clarke informed her, by letter dated January 31, 1985, that she was "not entitled to the retirement incentive" because

  The only time the window was open for employees
  over 55 years of age and with more than 15 years
  of credited service to receive the retirement
  incentive was at its inception with retirement no
  later than June 1981. You will remember that you
  had decided to retire at that time and then
  withdrew your notice of retirement on January 14,
  1981.

Board Mem., DX F.

Because she was denied the retirement incentive benefit under the 1983-86 agreement, Gabarczyk contends that, in negotiating and implementing the retirement incentive, the defendants discriminated against her based on age, in violation of Section 4(a) of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 623(a). Under Section 4(a)(1) of the ADEA, it is unlawful for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age." 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Gabarczyk also contends that the PPSTA violated its duty, pursuant to Section 301 of the LMRA, to represent her fairly, both in negotiating the terms of the 1983-86 agreement, and in pursuing her grievance against the Board.

Defendants respond that the retirement incentive benefit is protected under Section 4(f)(2) of the ADEA, which provides that it is not unlawful for an employer

  to observe the terms of . . . any bona fide
  employee benefit plan such as a retirement,
  pension, or insurance plan, which is not a
  subterfuge to evade the purposes of this chapter,
  except that no such employee benefit plan shall
  excuse the failure to hire any individual, and no
  such . . . employee benefit plan shall require or
  permit the involuntary retirement of any
  individual . . . because of the age of such
  individual.

29 U.S.C. ยง 623(f)(2). Defendants also contend that Gabarczyk's cause of action is barred by the statute of limitations, arguing that Gabarczyk's claim accrued when she was assertedly informed, in 1981, that she would no longer be eligible for any future retirement incentive benefits. In addition, the PPSTA claims that it did not breach its duty of fair representation, either in negotiating the 1983-86 agreement or in representing Gabarczyk's grievance. In the alternative, the PPSTA argues that, because monetary damages against the PPSTA are not available to Gabarczyk ...


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