AARP asks a federal appeals court to uphold the letter and intent of laws protecting against age and disability discrimination, in a case that arises out of a termination in Nebraska.
Marjorie Tramp was terminated from her job at Associated Underwriters shortly after refusing her employer’s request that she withdraw from the company health care plan and enroll in Medicare, and only one day prior to scheduled knee surgery. In summer 2008, the company experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in the costs of its group health care plan and was seeking new quotes for group coverage. One possible insurer had proposed a plan at greatly reduced cost from the rest, but the proposal did not include Tramp and another older employee. A representative of the insurer informed Associated Underwriters that the reason the older employees had not been included in the proposal was that people over age 65 “usually don’t get quoted” since they are eligible for Medicare. The president of Associated Underwriters met with the two older employees and suggested they use Medicare instead of the company health insurance plan, but both declined.
In October of the same year, Tramp received a formal reprimand for poor performance and was placed on a 90-day probationary period. In February of the following year, during a reduction in force blamed on poor financial performance of the company, four employees were terminated. The four included Tramp and the other older employee. Tramp was told that her termination was due to her poor performance.
Tramp sued, citing violations of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A trial court dismissed her claim, ruling that the company had terminated her on grounds unrelated to her age, and that the ADA did not apply because she was not disabled (since the knee problem was scheduled for corrective surgery the next day). She appealed.
AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys filed AARP’s friend-of-the-court brief in her appeal. The brief argues that the lower court misread the ADEA by ignoring the correlation between age and another feature supporting termination, and misread the ADA by ignoring the very clear language under amendments to the ADA that clearly contemplate coverage for a temporary condition where a plaintiff is not seeking accommodations. Moreover, the brief argues, the court’s ruling that “defendant terminated [Tramp] to save health care costs, and not because she was disabled” would excuse all sorts of disability-based bias.
What’s at Stake
This case implicates multiple AARP priorities, including combating bias against older workers based on age, combating bias based on disability, and combating bias in the provision of health care coverage.
Tramp v. Associated Underwriters Inc. is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.