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Baltimore County to pay $5.4M to settle age-bias lawsuit

Baltimore County will pay $5.4 million to more than 2,000 county employees and retirees to resolve a federal age-discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced Friday.

The county and the EEOC had been in litigation for more than a decade over a previous pension system that had a higher contribution rate for employees over age 40. The county changed its policy for new hires in 2007 and the parties and unions agreed to a plan in 2016 that gradually equalized contribution rates.

The EEOC then pursued back-pay damages for the affected employees and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 that back pay was mandatory under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination based on age.

Under the joint consent order resolving the lawsuit, signed by U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett on Friday, the county will pay $5,399,700.65 to 2,042 employees and retirees. The money fully compensates all individuals who meet class eligibility criteria and who paid a higher contribution rate than they would have if age had not been a factor in determining employee contribution rates, the EEOC said.

“We are pleased that thousands of retirees who overpaid for their pensions, some for many years, are finally being reimbursed,” said Maria Salacuse, EEOC supervisory trial attorney, in a news release. “We appreciate the willingness of the county and the trustees of the retirement system to bring this case to resolution.”

EEOC Assistant General Counsel Christopher Lage said: “This case was important for the EEOC to bring. Only the EEOC can sue state and local governments under the ADEA, and thus this violation would have gone without remedy absent the EEOC’s lawsuit. The case also confirmed the important principle that back pay is a mandatory legal remedy under the ADEA.”

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Baltimore County, 1:07-cv-02500.