Panel strikes down mandatory retirement at UPEI
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.