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Report suggests ending mandatory retirement ages.

A report which proposes outlawing compulsory retirement ages for police and fire personnel and substituting various performance tests to ascertain job fitness was submitted to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the week of February 10th. While the study has not been released by EEOC, it is expected to advise that testing is less discriminatory than fixed age standards, (see The Weekly, January 20, 1992).

Federal law currently exempts police officers, fire fighters and correctional officiers from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act if the ages used were those in effect on March 3, 1983. This exempltion expires December 31, 1993. If no action is taken by Congress prior to this deadline cities and towns will be faced with the potential of lawsuits alleging illegal discharge or failure to hire because of age standards used by city agencies. The Supreme Court ruled in March o 1983 in EEOC v. Wyoming that states and localities were not exempt from federal age discrimination statutes.

Without clarification through Congressional action, cities will be placed in limbo--not knowing whether they are required to change personnel rules and regulations, unsure if tests may be used or what type of tests may be legitimately used to ascertain job fitness or what changes may be required in retirement systems. Clear direction is required on this matter, given the long lead times which will be required to adjust personnel practices, validate testing procedures, modify collective bargaining agreements and gain changes in state retirement/pension laws early.

Currently, EEOC has not determined the process it will follow to consider this report, which it is obligated to deliver to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate. By statute, the report was to be delivered Jan 1, 1991, but the study was not commissioned until September, 1990 because congressional approval of funding for the study was not granted until the FY90 federal budget.

Also under the statute, EEOC was to submit by Jan 1, 1992 "guidelines for the administration and use of physical and mental fitness tests to measure the ability and competency of police officers and firefighters to perform the requirements of their jobs."

Congress Faces Mandatory

Retirement Question

In another development, Congress faces an age question affecting its own police officers. Five hundred fifty-five police officers (about half the force) on the Congressionally administered Capitol Police Force have filed a petition requesting that Congress repeal a law requiring any member of the Capitol Police force reaching 55 years of age by october 31, 1992 to retire after completing 20 years on the force.

According to Roll Call, a newspaper widely circulated in Congressional offices, "The retirement plan it was hoped, would encourage younger officers to remain on the force for longer periods as older officers vacated key posts. It was also seen as an opportunity to open up senior positions on the force to allow the promotion of, among others, minority officers. The package came after months of accusations from officers of racial discrimination in hiring and promotional policies with the department." The Capitol Police Force is roughly the size of the municipal police force in Kansas City, Missouri or Seattle, Wash.
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Author:Peterson, Doug
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 24, 1992
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