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AARP Sues for Age Discrimination in Pension Plan

Older workers in a Maryland school system are ineligible for disability benefits

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An auto mechanic who was injured on the job is suing his former employer for age discrimination because being older than 62 makes him ineligible for a disability pension.

AARP Foundation Litigation and the Andalman & Flynn law firm filed the federal lawsuit this month against Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) on behalf of Ernie Brandenburg, who is 66 and lives in Adamstown, Md.

Under the rules of the MCPS retirement plan, workers over age 62 who are hurt on the job can receive only the basic retirement benefit rather than a disability pension, which pays a higher monthly benefit. Brandenburg could lose almost $35,000 every year just because of how old he was when he was injured.

“This is just plain unfair,” says Brandenburg. “My eligibility for a pension shouldn’t be different just because I’m over a certain age.”

Brandenburg worked for MCPS for 11 years, supervising the mechanics who repair school buses as well as doing some of that maintenance himself. Brandenburg was injured in November 2015 while working on a school bus that was not properly secured on a lift. He needed medical treatment and ultimately shoulder reconstruction surgery. The injury left him unable to continue to do his job.

He applied to the school district for disability retirement in February 2017. But even though the Disability Retirement Review Board approved Brandenburg’s application, he ended up getting only the regular retirement benefit.

“AARP has long battled ageism in the workplace,” says Laurie McCann, senior attorney at AARP Foundation Litigation. “This case presents a textbook case of age discrimination in employment. Mr. Brandenburg is receiving lower pension benefits based only on his age. That is just unacceptable.”

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects people over age 40 from age bias in the workplace, and in 1990 Congress enacted the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act to prohibit age bias in employee benefits.

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