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Early Retirement Offer Not Age Discrimination

November 6, 1998
Related Topics: Retirement/Pensions, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Featured Article
Are you facing decisions about early retirement offers, and are concerned about the ADEA (age-discrimination law)? The case below may interest you. Generally speaking, what the circuit court decided was that because the plaintiff chose to retire, it was not age discrimination.

Johnson v. Runyon, 137 F.3d 1081 (8th Cir., March 6, 1998).

Plaintiff was 52 years of age and a tour superintendent at the agency when the agency embarked on a major reorganization. All tour superintendent positions were abolished, but a higher-level position requiring additional skills was created. Plaintiff along with others was offered early retirement. An agency official later informed him that he did not intend to hire him for one of the new higher-level positions, on the grounds that he lacked the required skills. The official testified that he informed plaintiff because plaintiff had to make his early retirement decision. The official also testified that he told plaintiff that he would still have a job with the agency, and would not be reduced in pay.

Plaintiff accepted the early retirement offer, but testified that he had not intended to retire early. He filed suit, alleging age discrimination, after the agency selected persons for the higher-level position who ranged in age from 36 to 48. The district court entered judgment in favor of the agency. The district court found that plaintiff failed to make a prima facie showing; because he retired voluntarily, he did not suffer an adverse employment action.

The circuit court agreed. The court stated that where there was no adverse employment action, plaintiff could recover only if he could show that he was constructively discharged. The court noted that plaintiff chose to retire rather than to wait and see what positions would be available after the reorganization. No reasonable person would have found these working conditions so intolerable that they would force an employee to quit, ruled the circuit court.

Contact your attorney for more information about age discrimination.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, D.C.

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