WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has begun a review of its policy concerning the application of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to employer-sponsored retiree health benefit plans, such as those offering extended health care coverage in the form of a Medicare bridge (coverage until Medicare eligibility at age 65). That policy had provided that retiree health plans that are reduced or eliminated on the basis of age or Medicare-eligibility violate the ADEA.
The announcement came in the form of an official rescission of portions of the Commission's Compliance Manual Chapter on "Employee Benefits" that discuss the application of the ADEA to retiree health plans. The rescission was approved on August 17 by a unanimous vote of the Commission.
Explaining the decision to rescind and review the policy, the Commission's new Chair, Cari M. Dominguez, said: "The Commission has heard from a wide range of stakeholders including employer, employee, and labor groups expressing concerns about the impact of the now rescinded policy on the future of employer-sponsored retiree health benefits. The Commission shares these concerns, and our review will focus on the development of a new policy, consistent with the ADEA, that does not discourage employers from providing this valuable benefit."
Commission Vice Chair Paul M. Igasaki observed that the agency "must carefully craft a policy which protects the rights of older retirees but does not deter employers from providing health benefits to retirees in general."
The Commission will continue to vigorously pursue other types of age discrimination claims involving retirees, such as cash-based early retirement incentives that are reduced or eliminated with advancing age.
The full text of the rescission, as well as other information about the EEOC, is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
In addition to the ADEA, which prohibits discrimination against workers age 40 and older, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color, or national origin; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities; and portions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibit disability discrimination in federal employment.