Medical Group Agrees to Pay Nearly $7 Million to Resolve Discrimination Charges Stemming From Mandatory Retirement Age Policy
Scripps Clinical Medical Group (Scripps) is a multispecialty healthcare practice in San Diego, California, boasting more than 950 physicians and clinicians among its members. Earlier this month, Scripps agreed to pay $6.875 million to resolve claims of age and disability discrimination related to the company’s mandatory retirement age policy. The policy required an entire class of physicians to retire once they reached a certain age, regardless of their ability to do the job. After investigating the allegations brought by the physicians, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined it had reasonable cause to believe Scripps was in violation of both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC then entered into its pre-litigation conciliation process with Scripps. This process yielded a four-year conciliation agreement that avoids any further enforcement action or litigation and does not require the company to admit liability. Under the terms of the agreement, Scripps will be required to do the following:
- Pay $6,875,000 to the class of individuals impacted by the company’s mandatory retirement age policy
- Rescind its mandatory retirement policy based on age
- Have the rescission reaffirmed by the Board of Directors
- Inform employees of the rescission
- Review its policies and procedures against age and disability discrimination, revise them as necessary, and distribute them to employees
- Make it clear to employees that the company does not have any policy in which age is a factor in making employment decisions, including termination, retirement, and terms and conditions of employment
- Send division heads, department heads, executive leadership, and members of human resources to required training on the ADEA and ADA
The EEOC will monitor Scripps over the next four years to ensure the company is complying with the terms of the agreement.
ADEA Prohibits Mandatory Retirement Age Policies, With Limited Exceptions
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that protects job applicants and employees who are 40 years old or older from employment discrimination based on their age. The ADEA applies to private employers with 20 or more employees, as well as federal, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Age discrimination includes being terminated based on age, and a policy instituting a mandatory retirement age is therefore unlawful as it amounts to an involuntary termination based on age. The ADEA only provides two narrow exceptions when an age-based mandatory retirement policy might be allowed: a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) and a “bona fide executive or high policymaking position.” To pass muster, a BFOQ must be “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business.” The exception for employees in a “bona fide executive or high policymaking position” only applies to employees who have reached the age of 65 and were employed in a bona fide executive or high policymaking position for the two years immediately before retirement, and only if the employee is immediately entitled to at least $44,000 in retirement benefit through means such as a pension, profit-sharing or deferred compensation plan.
Disability Discrimination Is Implicated by Mandatory Retirement Age as Well
A mandatory retirement age policy also arguably violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and this was another charge brought against Scripps by the EEOC. The ADA protects qualified individuals from discrimination in employment based on a disability, a history of a disability, or if they are perceived as having a disability. Requiring someone to retire based solely on their age implies they are perceived as being unqualified to do the job based on assumptions and stereotypes as opposed to their overall performance. According to a spokesperson for the EEOC, “Using a mandatory retirement age based on assumptions and stereotypes is against the law and the EEOC will continue to pursue such discriminatory policies.”
Marion County Age and Disability Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Florida, our Marion County employment discrimination lawyers have been litigating age discrimination and disability discrimination cases in Florida for over twenty years. If you have been the victim of discrimination at work based on age, disability, or other protected characteristics, or if you have questions about your rights as the victim of employment discrimination, please contact our office for a free consultation. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.