EEOC files ap­peal in Bal­ti­more County pen­sion case

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/pwoodreporters

The fed­eral Equal Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion is ap­peal­ing a court rul­ing that ab­solved Bal­ti­more County of hav­ing to re­turn money to thou­sands of em­ploy­ees who over­paid into the pen­sion sys­tem.

The com­mis­sion filed no­tice of its ap­peal last week. It did not de­scribe the rea­sons for the ap­peal, and a spokesman de­clined to com­ment.

EEOC lawyers have ar­gued that the county knew for years that its age-based pen­sion plan rates were dis­crim­i­na­tory, and the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing to pay em­ploy­ees back should have been “fore­see­able for sev­eral decades.”

A fed­eral judge ruled in 2012 that the county had been wrong to over­charge older work­ers. In Au­gust, an­other judge ruled the county would not have to pay those work­ers back.

Of­fi­cials es­ti­mated that the county could have been on the hook for as much as $19 mil­lion in po­ten­tial pay­ments to the work­ers.

It’s not clear how many work­ers would have been due a re­pay­ment. The county has said it would have taken years of re­search to fig­ure out how many work­ers were affected and how much money each was owed.

The case largely af­fects work­ers hired be­fore 2007, when the county ended its decades-long prac­tice of set­ting pen­sion con­tri­bu­tion rates for new hires based on age.

The al­le­ga­tions of un­fair­ness were first brought to light in 1999 and 2000, when two cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers filed com­plaints through the EEOC.

The EEOC didn’t sue on the work­ers’ be­half un­til 2007, which U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard D. Ben­nett said was an “un­rea­son­able de­lay” that was a fac­tor in his de­ci­sion not to award dam­ages.

Ben­nett noted that mon­e­tary dam­ages haven’t been awarded in sim­i­lar pen­sion cases and that dam­ages aren’t re­quired un­der the law that’s cen­tral to this case, the fed­eral Age Dis­crim­i­na­tion in Em­ploy­ment Act.

The ap­peal will be con­sid­ered at the 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Rich­mond, Va.

“We be­lieve that the trial court is­sued the cor­rect de­ci­sion,” county spokes­woman Ellen Kobler said.

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