EEOC Demands Retiree Health Benefit Case Rehearing

July 12, 2005 ( - The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has asked a Philadelphia federal judge to take another look at her March 30 decision that declared the agency had violated federal law in a controversial health benefit regulation.

>The agency, which enforces federal laws barring workplace discrimination, argued to US District Judge Anita Brody of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that the issue deserves reconsideration in light of a recent US Supreme Court decision, according to a BNA report. The nation’s high court ruled that legal interpretations by federal agencies should be given deference if they are “reasonable”.

>The EEOC rehearing request puts on hold the agency’s appeal of Brody’s decision that the EEOC violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when it issued regulations allowing employers to reduce or end benefits when a retiree becomes eligible for Medicare or comparable state retiree health benefits (See  Federal Judge Tosses EEOC Retiree Health Benefit Exemption ).  AARP is challenging the regulation (See  AARP Sues Over EEOC Retiree Health Coverage Policy ).  AARP had argued, and Brody agreed, that EEOC lacked the authority to issue the rule because it failed to make a strong enough record in its rulemaking to support the public policy argument.

>The exemption to ADEA, which is widely supported by the employer community and organized labor, was intended to address a growing concern that ADEA might be construed to create an incentive for employers to eliminate or reduce retiree health benefits.  The regulation stemmed from reaction to a 2000 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Erie County Retirees Ass’n v. County of Erie

>The Brody opinion in AARP v. EEOC, E.D. Pa., No. 05-00509, motion filed 6/30/05 can be found  here