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AARP: Montgomery Co. schools cut maintenance worker’s pension because of age

A retired maintenance worker for Montgomery County Public Schools has alleged in a lawsuit the school district’s pension plan violates federal law.

Ernie Brandenburg claims under the pension plan, school district employees who are injured on the job after age 62 are not eligible for accidental disability retirement benefits because of their age, a violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, according to the complaint, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

Brandenburg was 65 years old and a maintenance worker for 11 years in March 2017 when he applied for accidental disability retirement under the pension plan after being injured on the job, the complaint states. The Disability Retirement Review Board approved his application and Brandenburg retired the following month, the complaint states.

But since his retirement, Brandenburg has been getting his monthly pension at the rate of normal retirement benefits, instead of the higher amount given for accidental disability retirement, the lawsuit states. In July 2017, the school district said Brandenburg was not entitled to the higher benefit payment because he applied for accidental disability retirement over age 62, the lawsuit states.

Brandenburg alleges he will lose $35,000 because he was injured after he turned 62, and his current pension is two-thirds less than what he would have received if the school district’s pension policy did not discriminate based on age.

“This case presents a textbook case of age discrimination in employment,” Laurie McCann, senior attorney at AARP Foundation Litigation, which is representing Brandenburg, said in a statement.

Brandenburg was an auto tech and supervised mechanics who worked on school buses. In November 2015, Brandenburg was injured while adjusting a school bus that was not properly on its lift saddle, according to the lawsuit. He required medical treatment, including shoulder reconstruction surgery because of the injury, which prevented Brandenburg from going back to his job, the lawsuit states.

“Mr. Brandenburg would have continued to work had he not become injured on the job,” said Elliott Andalman of Andalman & Flynn in Silver Spring, who also is representing Brandenburg. “He should not have been denied benefits based solely on his age at the time he suffered the injury. That is age discrimination, plain and simple.”

Officials from Montgomery County Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The case is Brandenburg v. Montgomery County Public Schools, 8:18-cv-02583-PWG.

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