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Ticer calls age law exemption 'critical.' (Mayor Patsy Ticer of Alexandria, Virginia, testifies before the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations and asks for age-based criteria in the employment of city public safety personnel)

Alexandria, Va. Mayor Patsy Ticer last week testified on behalf of NLC in support of legislation that would permit all cities and towns the option to implement age-based criteria for hiring and retirement of public safety personnel.

The hearing, called by Rep. Harris Fawell (R-Ill.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations, focused on legislation, sponsored by Fawell, that would reinstate the public sector exemption to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), with respect to public safety personnel. Under the exemption, which expired December 31, 1993, cities and towns that had age-based policies prior to 1986 were permitted to retain those policies. All others were prohibited from implementing such policies.

Mayor Ticer focused her testimony on two key municipal issues: the ability of local elected officials to protect the public; and the current law exemption of federal public safety personnel from the ADEA.

Ticer called the pending legislation (unnumbered) "essential for municipal elected officials to fulfill their legal responsibility to provide for the public's safety." Responding to why municipal public safety personnel should be exempt, Ticer pointed to the physically stressful character of the work and the difficulties in developing reliable, safe, and cost-efficient tests of an individual's physical fitness."

Mayor Ticer was joined on the panel by Fred Nesbitt, director of Governmental Affairs, for the International Association of Fire Fighters, and Bob Scully, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Officers. Both reiterated Ticer's views with respect to nature of public safety occupations and the importance of allowing municipalities to consider age in determining hiring and retirement of personnel.

In 1986, legislation was enacted that provided localities a seven year exemption during which time the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would conduct extensive studies of the subject. The study was to address three issues: 1) to determine whether physical and mental fitness tests are valid measurements of the ability and competency of police officers and firefighters to perform requirements of their jobs; 2) If such tests were found to be valid measurements of such ability and competency, to determine which particular types of tests most effectively measure such ability and competency; and 3) To develop recommendations with respect to specific standards that such tests and the administration of such tests should satisfy.

A contract was awarded to Pennsylvania State University (PSU) in 1990. At the time the exemption expired, PSU had only partially completed the mandated study, failing to satisfy the most important parts of the congressional mandate: It did not identify the particular types of tests to measure physical and mental fitness, nor did it develop specific standards under which to administer these tests.

Ticer reminded Subcommittee members that in 1974, the Congress applied the ADEA to the federal sector. "However," Ticer said, "Congress retained the mandatory retirement age for federal firefighters and law enforcement personnel. NLC believes the exemption for federal public safety agencies from the ADEA requirements is fair. The same flexibility should apply to all levels of government."
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Author:Quist, Janet
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Jan 30, 1995
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