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Coerced into retirement Ohio

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  • Coerced into retirement Ohio

    I'll try to keep this short, at the end of my 30th year at a School Dist. 2013 summer, my supervisor informed me my stipend/mgr position of $4k would not be renewed the next year, and it would not be given out again. I had been getting this pay/position along with my hourly pay since 2000. After a 3yr pay freeze, this drop in pay could only lower my retirement calculations (highest 3 yrs.) so I retired.
    I was asked repeatedly by the supervisor for nearly one year when I might be retiring, so the phone call was a surprise. I recently found out the stipend/position was given to the remaining employee the year after I left. The cut in my pay was the factor in my decision to retire and clearly she was forcing me to do it knowing my pension would lower.
    Do I have any legal recourse since the limitation is 300 days, but I only found out 4months ago after reading old board minutes? Thanks
    ps..I was 55 at the time, co-worker was 46. And she didn't like me for comments I had made about her not knowing how to do payroll, or anything for that matter lol.

  • #2
    Just to understand the timeline, was there a year that the stipend was NOT given between the time you were told and the time the other employee received it? Did this supervisor have the ability/authority to chose whether the stipend was given or approved each year? What exactly do the board minutes say about the stipend?

    To my knowledge, it is not illegal to ask about your retirement plans nor to take away a stipend based on budget, etc. We have a couple of posters who are in the education field so I am going to let them answer the rest....

    Comment


    • #3
      What proof do you have it was deliberate and not what your manager truly thought at the time? To me, it sounds like the issue was revisited a year later and funding was restored.

      What law do you think has been violated that you would be entitled to sue under?

      Comment


      • #4
        Coerced into retirement Ohio

        She likely didn't have the authority, only the board can make those final decisions, but the Treasurer was backing her choice. I didn't fight the decision because I was told by the Treasurer the stipend would never be given again. It was a raise given to me without changing the dept. pay scale,
        The reason was not a financial/cost saving move, the supervisor said I was not entering repair data into a database which was part of the job description, but the database software had been deleted and changed and a program was never installed after repeated requests, to this day data is not being kept.
        I thought it was unlawful to pressure/encourage someone into retirement by false means, and they did give the same position to a younger employee so I don't know if it's age discrimination? Maybe no law was broken but surely people who are retirement eligible can't be tricked into doing it?

        Comment


        • #5
          You have a couple of hurdles (if not more):
          (1) the person who got the job was also over 40 yrs of age and is also covered under ADEA and is protected

          (2) no one forced you to retire - you made that choice based on getting no stipend the next year and your view of your career average earnings

          (3) stipends are not guaranteed after the end of the current year and is used INSTEAD of a raise and shouldn't be considered an ongoing raise in pay - much like a bonus for handling something out of the regular job duties that your wages pay for -- if you weren't doing the duties that fell under the stipend, then that's a valid reason to take it away that has nothing to do with your age-- even if the reason was not having access to software you needed to do the duty. And it is in their favor that they didn't reinstate the software for the person that replaced you....It is very possible the same stipend is now being given to the current employee for different duties or the same duty done a different way. You say you know that data is not being kept, but if you are retired, how do you know that?


          While they said the stipend would never be given again, if that was their perspective and true at the time, they didn't lie and it may not have been false at the time. It could be the district took it away only to find that a lot of employees they wanted to retain left (like you) and they added it back for retention purposes. Or the change of duties issue that I mentioned above. Or they reclassified the purpose of the stipend and this new employee does meet those classifications.

          I highly doubt this whole thing was setup to get you to leave (I dont' know anyone that has time/energy for that) -- It just sounds like bad information and bad timing and you made a choice based on knowledge at the time. As they say Hindsight is 20/20 and many of us would have made different decisions had we known the facts as they actually happened rather than what we thought was going to happen.

          Comment


          • #6
            Agreed. Past that as someone who was supervised or managed a lot of employees over the years I can say that employees often seem to get very odd notions of what happens on the other side of the curtain. The reasons they come up with for decisions are often very unrelated to the actual reasons. I worked at one place where many decisions originated in the President's office and he could not have told people his reasons if you put a gun to his head. Frequently what impacts employees is just collateral damage. We referred to this as "blue toilet paper"syndrome, that being an actual decision he made once upon time. But even decisions that made sense (to someone) are often not explained to the general workforce. And then there is the employee who feels they were fired for their race, sex, planetary origin, anything but their work performance which they were repeatedly written up for. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (to quote Freud).
            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

            Comment


            • #7
              Coerced into retirement Ohio

              You are correct, it was my decision, even though imo it was coerced, which I cannot prove of course. I documented nothing.

              Many people think retirement will be an easy decision when the time comes, this was not true in my case, and the influence she put on that choice IMO was unethical to say the least, but that's life....... thx.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by slowmo View Post
                You are correct, it was my decision, even though imo it was coerced, which I cannot prove of course. I documented nothing.
                The only two things you mention as coercion is the removal of the stipend and asking you when you were planning on retiring. I don't see the coercion.

                The definition of coercion is the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Coerced into retirement Ohio

                  I was asked repeatedly for the two years this supervisor was in charge, it is now my understanding that normal questioning about retirement plans is acceptable for planning purposes, but repeated, excessive inquiries are considered abusive. It may not be illegal per say, but how would you convince someone to retire who is undecided, and their benefits are wage related? Give them a surprise last minute $4k cut in pay the day before the administration leaves for 30 day vacation before the year starts.
                  I could rant forever and understand this is not clearly against the law, our Treasurer/District was found guilty of bilking the village taxpayers out of millions of dollars illegally so I know how those people conduct business. Also, never speak ill of those in charge whether it's true or not, it will bite you on the backside lol.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Excessive asking you a question assuming your definition is the same as mine still does not rise to the level of being coerced. No violence or threat was used.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Coerced into retirement Ohio

                      http://www.laboremploymentreport.com.............what does this mean?

                      Discussions of retirement with employees beyond this limited executive/policymaker exception can be extremely problematic, as demonstrated in the recent case of Lee v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation. In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that a supervisorís repeated questioning of the employee as to when she was going to retire could support a claim of harassment based on age and could have been intended to force her to quit (i.e. constructive discharge). So the rule for employers is: Donít ask when the employee is planning to retire!

                      Now if the employee volunteers that he or she is thinking about retirement, it is fine to ask if the employee has any specific ideas about when that might be, so that the employer can begin planning. But if the employee doesnít have a particular date or timeframe in mind, it is not appropriate to ask them to pick one!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        that link went to a blog by an attorney about the EEOC's opinion on background checks, but I found the one you referenced -- realize this is the opinion of one firm about the EEOC's opinion and this one case. That case had a whole lot more facts and circumstances than you have provided and she actually had an adverse employment action along with her complaint...here is part of the text of the complaint from the link in that blog : https://scholar.google.com/scholar_c...=1&oi=scholarr

                        "Additionally, Meyer's comments regarding Plaintiff's retirement decisions are not direct evidence of age discrimination because they require an inference that Meyer's comments concerning retirement were a proxy for age discrimination. That is, her comments require us to infer that she asked Plaintiff about her retirement because she wanted to pressure Plaintiff to retire and was motivated to do so on account of Plaintiff's age. Further, Meyer's comments regarding retirement were unrelated to the decisionmaking process and accordingly do not provide direct evidence of unlawful discrimination. " The plaintiff then had to prove indirect reasons and an adverse employment action (increased surveillance, termination, etc).

                        What you have to understand is that the EEOC doesn't make laws nor do they really even enforce them beyond a certain level. They suggest best policy to keep employers out of hot water for discrimination/retaliation claims. They help mediate and rarely sue employers when there was a claim. If the employer doesn't mediate/settle, the EEOC gives most employees a "right to sue" letter and then it is up to the employee to find an attorney and file the lawsuit on their own dime. But each set of circumstances and details are different. There are lots of questions the EEOC thinks the employers shouldn't ask that are NOT against the law. But they can help prove a case if added in with other details. They assume knowledge leads to discrimination when that is not always the case.

                        Right now, just asking you about retirement, even "excessively" over 2 years isn't generally enough without anything else to add to it. In some ways it is just succession and employee resource planning. And you weren't asked to pick a retirement date either or state a specific end of the year. And again I see no threats or violence or force or any retaliation had you said you were staying at least another few years. I see no adverse employment action based on your age. I see a stipend being removed because the duty couldn't be fulfilled (regardless if it was their fault or yours) -- You never did answer my original question "was there (at least) a year that the stipend was NOT given between the time you were told and the time the other employee received it?" You might have more of a case if the new employee DID get the stipend that first year.

                        You are welcome to take your details to a local attorney to see if they think you have any sort of case. I am honestly not seeing one.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Coerced into retirement Ohio

                          I understand and appreciate the replies, of course there are other personality type conflicts I didn't mention, not really relevant here, but a jury would be interested lol. And sorry, the stipend was reinstated at the start of the following year.
                          I speak often with the co-worker, we are friends and that is how I know records are still not logged in database.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by slowmo View Post
                            I understand and appreciate the replies, of course there are other personality type conflicts I didn't mention, not really relevant here, but a jury would be interested lol.
                            If you don't think they are relevant here I'd be willing to bet the judge and the counsel for the other side won't think they are relevant either and jury will never hear them.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I looked up the retirement plan. As I suspected it takes the 3 highest years of salary, not the most recent 3 years. Making less prior to retiring would change nothing. Even if you spent the next 10 years working for $4K less, the 3 highest years of salary would remain the same. Waiting to retire would have increased your pension going forward as years of service is also part of the calculation. Logistically, it does not make sense that a reduction of $4K a year would cause one to retire as I can virtually guarantee that your pension is far less than your salary-4K. Add to the fact that the decision to grant or revoke the stipend was not within the control of your supervisor. Sure, employees have retired based on even less significant slights, and personality conflicts is as good a reason as any to move on. It just does not give you a case for any sort of discrimination.

                              If you had 30 years in, or close to it, it is understandable that your employer would inquire into your plans. How frequent is too frequent is subjective and much depends upon what you told them when asked. Further, if you were 55 at the time you retired, the odds were that your job would be given to someone younger than you. The likelihood of even finding a candidate 56 or older is not high, particularly in the public sector.
                              I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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