Panel strikes down manda­tory re­tire­ment at UPEI

Cape Breton Post - - NATIONAL -

CHAR­LOT­TE­TOWN (CP) — A hu­man rights panel has struck down a con­tentious pol­icy that forced em­ploy­ees at the Uni­ver­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land to re­tire at age 65, clear­ing the way for some for­mer pro­fes­sors to re­turn to class.

In a de­ci­sion re­leased Tues­day, the panel ruled that the ter­mi­na­tion of two pro­fes­sors and an­other em­ployee was dis­crim­i­na­tion as de­fined by the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Hu­man Rights Act.

For­mer psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Thomy Nils­son, for­mer so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Richard Wills and Yogi Fell, who ran the uni­ver­sity’s ship­ping and re­ceiv­ing depart­ment, are el­i­gi­ble for re­in­state­ment to the po­si­tions they once held.

All three had their em­ploy­ment ter­mi­nated solely for reach­ing the age of 65.

“I be­lieve that this is a rul­ing that will ben­e­fit the uni­ver­sity,” Nils­son, 69, said af­ter the de­ci­sion. “They will be able to re­tain their most ex­pe­ri­enced fac­ulty and staff mem­bers — and the stu­dents will stand to ben­e­fit as well.”

The panel’s de­ci­sion will also ap­ply to three other for­mer fac­ulty mem­bers who filed com­plaints chal­leng­ing the UPEI pol­icy.

UPEI pres­i­dent Wade MacLauch­lan ex­pressed con­cern Tues­day that the uni­ver­sity without manda­tory re­tire­ment will face a greater chal­lenge in main­tain­ing the high­est level of en­gage­ment of fac­ulty and staff to best serve its stu­dents.

“I don’t think any­one be­lieves you can be at the top of your game un­less you are bring­ing new peo­ple in,” he said. “It can’t help but bring cer­tain ex­tra ( fis­cal) de­mands. ... As peo­ple stay on in their ca­reers, their salaries are higher.”

Nils­son filed a com­plaint with the P.E.I. Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion on Oct. 14, 2005.

The panel also ruled that the UPEI Fac­ulty As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents aca­demic staff, didn’t act in any way to cause or to con­trib­ute to the dis­crim­i­na­tion against the com­plainants.

The uni­ver­sity had ar­gued that the as­so­ci­a­tion should share in any li­a­bil­ity since its col­lec­tive agree­ment with the uni­ver­sity con­tained the manda­tory re­tire­ment pol­icy. The panel, how­ever, found that the pol­icy was never ne­go­ti­ated by the par­ties; it was im­posed by the uni­ver­sity, leav­ing the uni­ver­sity fully re­spon­si­ble for the dis­crim­i­na­tion and fully li­able for dam­ages.

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