Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

O'BRIEN v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF DEER PARK FREE SCHOOL

March 29, 2000

RICHARD O'BRIEN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE DEER PARK UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT DEER PARK PUBLIC SCHOOLS, DEFENDANT. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF, V. DEER PARK UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT AND DEER PARK TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending before the Court are: (1) the motion by plaintiffs Richard O'Brien, Nettie Bailey, George Diehr, Rita Lipnick, Robert Luther, Patricia Principe, Dolores Raymond, and Dolores Ullman (the "O'Brien Plaintiffs") for summary judgment in case number 94 CV 4695; (2) the motion by plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") (collectively with the O'Brien Plaintiffs, "Plaintiffs") for summary judgment in case number 95 CV 0092; (3) the cross-motion by defendant Deer Park Union Free School District ("Defendant") for leave to amend its answer in case number 95 CV 0092; and (4) the cross-motion by Defendant for summary judgment in case numbers 94 CV 4695 and 95 CV 0092. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment are granted*fn1 and Defendant's cross-motions for leave to amend its answer and for summary judgment are denied.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts are as follows: On May 29, 1996, the above-referenced cases were consolidated for discovery purposes and discovery was completed in April 1999. The O'Brien Plaintiffs were employed as teachers by Defendant and all retired sometime in 1992 to 1994. Their contractual retirement rights were governed by a collective bargaining agreement effective July 1, 1991 to June 30, 1994 (the "CBA"). Article VII, Section 10(g) of the CBA ("Section 10(g)") is entitled "Sick Leave Accumulation for Purpose of Retirement Payment." Section 10(g) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Effective July 1, 1988, teachers who retire in their first school year of eligibility shall be compensated for 100% of their accumulated sick leave as provided above.
Teachers who retire in their second school year of eligibility shall be compensated for 80% of their accumulated sick leave as provided above.
Teachers who retire in their third school year of eligibility shall be compensated for 75% of their accumulated sick leave as provided above.
Teachers who retire in their fourth school year of eligibility shall be compensated for 70% of their accumulated sick leave as provided above.
Eligibility shall be defined as having attained at least 55 years of age with at least 10 years of retirement credit in the New York State Teachers Association Retirement System. All teachers who have become eligible for retirement prior to July 1, 1988 shall be considered in their first year of eligibility as of the 1988-89 school year.

(Affidavit of Richard O'Brien, sworn to May 27, 1999, Ex. G § 10(g).)

Plaintiffs claim that Section 10(g) violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., as amended by the Older Workers' Benefit Protection Act of 1990, Pub.L. No. 101-433, 104 Stat. 978, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 621, 623, (the "OWBPA"), and Section 296 of the New York State Executive Law, because it reduces the amount of accumulated sick leave compensation paid to teachers formerly employed by Defendant on the basis of their age. They now move for summary judgment on their ADEA claim on the issue of liability only.

Defendant cross-moves for leave to amend its answer in the EEOC case to assert the affirmative defense found in 29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(2)(B)(ii). Defendant also cross-moves in both actions for summary judgment.

Because the Court finds that Section 10(g) is facially discriminatory and Defendant has failed to establish the affirmative defense of 29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(2)(B)(ii), which the Court holds applies to this action, Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment are granted. Defendant's cross-motion to amend its answer in the EEOC case is denied as futile as Defendant cannot meet the elements of the defense. Finally, Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied as the Court holds that Section 10(g) does in fact violate the ADEA.

DISCUSSION

The ADEA prohibits discrimination in the "compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment" by employers against individuals over the age of forty. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1) and 631(a). The ADEA was amended by the OWBPA in 1990 to "revive[] the ADEA's original purpose to eliminate arbitrary age discrimination in all facets of the workplace, including employee benefits." Auerbach v. Board of Educ. Of the Harborfields Cent. School Dist., 136 F.3d 104, 112 (2d Cir. 1998). Thus, employee benefit plans are subject to the ADEA.

The OWBPA "subdivides employee benefit plans into two categories: employee benefits and early retirement incentive plans," id., and provides affirmative defenses which permit an employer to escape liability for disparate treatment in either category on the basis of age. The affirmative defenses are set forth in 29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(2)(B) ("Section 623(f)(2)(B)") which provides:

It shall not be unlawful for an employer, employment agency, or labor organization —
(B) to observe the terms of a bona fide employee benefit plan —
(i) where, for each benefit or benefit package, the actual amount of payment made or cost incurred on behalf of an older worker is no less than that made or incurred on behalf of a younger worker,
(ii) that is a voluntary early retirement incentive plan consistent with the relevant purpose or purposes of this chapter.

29 U.S.C. § 623(f)(2)(B).

Section 623(f)(2)(B)(i) "governs employee benefits and expressly adopts the `equal benefit or equal cost' principle, [i.e.,] that [t]he only justification for an age-based reduction in employee benefits is the increased cost in providing those benefits to older workers." Auerbach, 136 F.3d at 112. Thus, Congress recognized that because "the costs of providing certain employee benefits increases with age, . . . employers need not provide `exactly the same benefits' to older employees as they do for younger ones, when to do so would result in excessive benefit costs that would discourage employers from hiring older workers in the first place." Id. at 110.

Section 623(f)(2)(B)(ii) "controls early retirement incentive plans and, significantly, contains no such increased cost language. In other words, the `equal benefit or equal cost' rule has no application in the retirement incentive plan context. . . . Rather, the early retirement incentive plan need only be voluntary and consistent with . . . the protection of employees from arbitrary age discrimination." Id.

In the instant case, Defendant asserts that the payment of accumulated sick leave compensation under Section 10(g) is a retirement incentive and, therefore, raises the affirmative defense found in Section 623(f)(2)(B)(ii). Plaintiffs, however, claim that this payment is an employee benefit and, thus, the affirmative defense of Section 623(f)(2)(B)(i) is applicable, which, they contend, Defendant cannot establish. Alternatively, Plaintiffs claim that if the Court finds that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.