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PRESS RELEASE
11-18-14

Murphy School District No. 21 to Pay $138,000 to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Federal Agency Says School Used Retirement Plans That Were Facially Discriminatory

PHOENIX -- Murphy School District No. 21 used an early retirement incentive plan which granted greater economic benefits to employees based upon their younger age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in an age discrimination lawsuit settled today.

The EEOC's suit had alleged that the school district adopted an early retirement incentive plan in the 1980s that clearly granted more favorable benefits to younger employees based on their age. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, which became effective in 1992, amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), to outlaw early retirement incentive plans which discriminated on the basis of age. The school district's early retirement incentive plan then became facially discriminatory. 

Such alleged conduct violates the ADEA, which prohibits employers, including state and local governments with 20 or more employees, from discriminating against individuals because of their age. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Murphy School District No. 21, 2:14-CV-00721-PHX-JJT), in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, after exhausting its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.  

The settlement reached by the agency and school district and entered by the court as a consent decree, will substantially compensate over two dozen retired employees. It also requires the school district to change its policies about age discrimination and to provide training on the ADEA to its employees and administrators.

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said, "Early retirement incentive plans which are facially discriminatory need to be changed. Discrimination on the basis of age is simply illegal. People in their 60's should not be penalized merely because they want to continue working. A retirement plan which states, for example, that employees 52 years old will receive a greater economic benefit than an employee 61 years old for retiring early is discriminatory on its face." 

Rayford O. Irvin, District Director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts, including discrimination based on age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was enacted to eliminate discrimination based on age 40 years of age or older. We will actively pursue cases where the type of overt age discrimination alleged in this case exists." 

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation's laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.