School District Accused of Age Bias in Salary to Avoid Pension Contribution
A provision in a union contract limits the salary increases of teachers who are within ten years of retirement eligibility to no more than 6% above their previous year's salary, which prevents the school district from having to make contributions to the Teacher’s Retirement System.
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.
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 older than 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 6% above their previous year’s salary.
Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, says that 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 6%, the school district must contribute to the Teacher’s Retirement System to cover the increased pension cost attributable to the salary increase greater than 6%. “Urbana cannot try to avoid making a contribution required by state law by limiting salaries of older teachers because of their age,” Bowman says.
Koplinski, age 52, had completed post-graduate classes that should have entitled to him to receive more than a 6% 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 6% for both school years.
The Regional Attorney of the Chicago District Office, Gregory Gochanour, explains, “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 6% salary increase and he would have received his full raise. Instead, his raise was capped at 6%. 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 (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.
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