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EEOC Sues Urbana School District No. 116 For Age Discrimination

Federal Agency Alleges Urbana Limited Salary Increases for Older Teachers Because of Age

CHICAGO - Urbana School District No. 116 violated federal law prohibiting age discrimination when it limited the salary increases that older teachers had earned, pursuant to an unlawful provision of a collective bargaining agreement, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, said that the agency's pre-suit investigation found that the Urbana School District limited the salary increases of Charles Koplinski and a group of other teachers over the age of 45 because of their age, due to a provision of a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the union representing teachers, Urbana Education Association IEA-NEA. That provision limits the salary increases of teachers who are within ten years of retirement eligibility to no more than six percent above their previous year's salary. Koplinski, age 52, had completed post-graduate classes that should have entitled to him to receive more than a six percent raise for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. But because Koplinski's age at the time put him within ten years of retirement eligibility, his raise was capped at six percent for both school years.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination because of age against individuals who are age 40 or over, including discrimination with respect to compensation.

According to Bowman, for school districts other than Chicago, the Illinois state pension code provides that if a teacher's final average salary for purposes of calculating pension benefits includes a year in which the teacher received a salary increase of more than six percent, the school district must contribute to the Teacher's Retirement System to cover the increased pension cost attributable to the salary increase over six percent. Teacher pensions outside of Chicago are otherwise funded through a combination of employee contributions and state taxes, without contributions from school districts. "Urbana cannot try to avoid making a contribution required by state law by limiting salaries of older teachers because of their age."

The Regional Attorney of the Chicago District Office, Gregory Gochanour, explained, "If Koplinski were age 40 instead of age 50 when he completed the post-graduate classes that would have entitled him to more than a six percent salary increase and he would have received his full raise. Instead, his raise was capped at six percent. Setting salaries based on age is age discrimination, plain and simple, and violates federal law."

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Urbana School District No. 116 and Urbana Education Association, IEA-NEA; Civil Action No. 18-cv-2212-CSB-EIL) on August 10, 2018, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC's conciliation process. The case was assigned to Judge Colin Stirling Bruce.

The EEOC is seeking lost compensation, including lost wages and lost pension benefits, if any, for teachers whose salary increases were limited and the elimination or modification of the provision of the collective bargaining agreement requiring the six percent limit on salary increases for teachers within ten years of retirement eligibility. The EEOC named the union as a defendant only for purposes of seeking modification of the collective bargaining agreement. The EEOC is not seeking any monetary damages from the union.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with area offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.