Judge Tosses out ADEA Claim

June 14, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - BankBoston didn't violate the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by converting its defined contribution plan into a cash balance plan, a federal judge ruled.

US District Judge Morris Lasker of the District of Massachusetts said a former BankBoston employee couldn’t file an ADEA suit because the law didn’t allow the claim that the cash balance conversion had a “disparate impact” on older workers.

Lasker dismissed the lawsuit filed by James Campbell, a 37-year BankBoston employee who worked as a senior fiduciary specialist in the company’s trust department.

According to court papers, three events prompted Campbell’s suit:

  • The 1996 merger between BayBank and Bank of Boston – a deal, which led to formation of the current BankBoston. An early retirement program created at the time excluded highly compensated workers such as Campbell.
  • The January 1997 conversion of the defined contribution plan to a cash balance system.
  • The 1998 BankBoston sale of its trust department. The company barred severance payments for anyone who declined job offers from the purchasing company. Campbell felt into this category when he turned down employment with the trust department buyer.


Lasker ruled that Campbell’s ADEA claims were procedurally flawed because, before bringing the lawsuit, Campbell had not filed the required charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Lasker also pointed out that Campbell’s insistence that BankBoston discriminated against older workers couldn’t be the basis for an ADEA claim based on an earlier appeals court decision.
“[T]o the extent that Campbell is alleging a ‘disparate impact’ claim based on the fact that older workers have a smaller amount of time for interest to accrue on their retirement accounts, such a claim is not permitted under the ADEA,” the court said.

Lasker also tossed out Campbell’s allegation that BankBoston’s severance pay administrator violated ERISA by excluding employees who turned down job offers from the purchasing company in an M & A deal.

The case is Campbell v. BankBoston N.A., D. Mass., No. 99-CV-12543-MEL.