EEOC Sues Four NY Volunteer Fire Departments for Age Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an age discrimination suit against four New York volunteer fire departments, two towns, and a village alleging that a length of service award program  discriminated against older firefighters. The suit was filed yesterday in the US District Court for the Northern District of New York.

The suit names the North Syracuse Fire Department, Cicero Fire Department, Clay Volunteer Fire Department, and Moyers Corners Fire Department, along with the towns of Cicero and Clay, and the village of North Syracuse. The basis for the suit, not unlike the numerous similar actions filed by the EEOC against fire departments in New York, is that the length of service award program (LOSAP) discriminates against older firefighters.

Sara Moses, of the Post-Standard does a great of explaining the basis for the suit:

Under state law, the length of service award program allows volunteer firefighters to earn a pension by taking part in an awards system that gives points for training, responding regularly to emergency calls and other duties.

 A firefighter must earn 50 points a year to make that year a qualifying year. When a firefighter reaches the designated retirement age, between 55 and 65 years old depending on the department, the number of qualifying years are used in a formula to determine a person’s pension. The state law was passed in 1989 and local departments and municipal boards accepted the program in the early 1990s….

Under the original 1989 legislation, volunteers who reached the designated retirement age would no longer be able to accrue points and therefore would not be able to increase the amount of their pension, despite still volunteering. In 2003, the state amended the law to allow volunteers older than the retirement age to accrue points, but the amendment did not require fire departments to change policies that were already in place.

This is the eleventh suit of this nature against a volunteer fire department in New York that I have in my database.

Here is a copy of the complaint. EEOC v Village of North Syracuse

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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