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Age Discrimination Cases at Indiana Universities would be Fewer if Age Limit was Abolished

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Worth (IPFW) is set to lose Michael Wartell as Chancellor due to a university retirement policy. The current policy requires high-level administrators to retire at the age of 65. However, many are questioning the usefulness of this type of policy.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted in 1967 to protect workers over the age of forty from being discriminated against in decisions such as hiring, firing, and promotions. However, an exception was made for high level executives in both the public and private sectors that allowed employers to set mandatory retirement ages for those individuals at the top. Most U.S. colleges took advantage of this exception, setting mandatory retirement ages for both faculty members and high-level administrators. In 1994, schools were forbidden by federal law from making faculty members retire at a certain age. And over the years, most universities have done away with forced retirement of administrators as well. But many universities in Indiana are still enforcing this policy.

Last year, Indiana University faced an age discrimination lawsuit from a 64-year-old dean who was denied a three-year position. Even though a large majority of the faculty wanted her to be reappointed, the vice chancellor had to turn her down because she would have hit the mandatory retirement age of 65 during her term. The EEOC agreed with the dean and determined that the policy did not apply to her because she would not have received a large enough retirement benefit to qualify for the policy. The university settled with her and allowed her to stay on in a different position. But she remains disappointed in the university and its decision to retain the mandatory retirement requirement. “I can tell you that having no choice but to step down from an office wherein I was viewed as being successful by my colleagues and to which I was otherwise entitled to retain by virtue of an excellent review felt discounting and humiliating,” she said.

Purdue University has made numerous exceptions to the mandatory retirement rule, including seven since 1996. But it refuses to change its policy. Legislators are trying to pass a bill that would eliminate all mandatory retirement policies in Indiana universities, but they have not been successful yet. In the meantime, Mr. Wartell’s position may be retained if Purdue makes another exception. This seems likely since the majority of the IPFW Senate favors extending his contract for two more years, making him older than 65 by the end of the of the extension.

Mandatory retirement policies for executives vary by company, and it is in your best interest to determine what type of policy your employer may have so that you are not caught off guard at a later stage in your career. An experienced Indiana or Kentucky employment attorney can review your contract and company policy with you to determine if you may face forced retirement down the road. The attorneys at Miller and Falkner have over eight years of experience in helping employees understand their contracts and defending their rights if necessary.

Sources:

Colleges should abolish age limit; Journal Gazette; February 21, 2012

A retirement policy that’s past its prime; Journal Gazette; Karen Francisco; October 2, 2011