Supremes To Consider Reverse ADEA Claim

April 22, 2003 ( - The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case brought by younger workers who claimed that taking away their post-retirement benefits while allowing older workers to retain them was discriminatory.

The lawsuit involves workers who were at least 40 years old but not yet 50 at General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.   Those workers, who lost retirement health benefits during contract negotiations between the company and the United Auto Workers, claim that the action amounted to a type of reverse age discrimination prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Attorneys for the workers said in court briefs that “rescission” of continued health insurance benefits after retirement” based on age alone “constitutes age discrimination,” according to Dow Jones.

A federal trial judge dismissed the younger workers’ claims, saying Congress didn’t intend for the law to cover reverse discrimination. However, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned that finding, holding that the ADEA covered any type of age discrimination, allowing the workers’ claims to go forward.

General Dynamics asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals panel ruling, noting that the appellate court decision threatens to harm corporate efforts to continue granting benefits to older workers, while putting in place new programs for younger workers that are affordable.

The US Chamber of Commerce, in a friend of the court filing, also asked for high-court review of the matter. In its brief, the Chamber of Commerce argued the 6th Circuit decision was at odds with the decisions of other federal court circuits and misinterpreted the federal statute, according to Dow Jones.

The case is General Dynamics Land Systems v. Cline, 02-1080.