Mandatory retirement

Mandatory retirementMainello v McCall, 252 AD2d 235, motion to appeal dismissed, 93 NY2d 919 In 1988 the state amended the Retirement and Social Security Law to change the mandatory age of retirement for certain members of the Police and Firefighters' Retirement System [PFRS] from age 60 to age 57 [Chapter 795 of the Laws of 1988]. State Police Assistant Deputy Superintendent John A. Mainello challenged the requirement that he retire from his position upon his attainment of age 57 [RSSL Section 381-b(e)]. He filed a lawsuit contending that the legislature's action violated the state Constitution. He said it contradicted the so-called "Nonimpairment Clause" (Article V, Section 7), which provides that a retiree's retirement benefits from a public retirement system of this state are contractual and may neither be diminished nor impaired. Mainello argued that his retirement benefits would be compromised because he would "lose three years of member service." The Appellate Division disagreed, holding that Mainello's early retirement would have a "minor and entirely incidental" influence on his retirement benefits. Furthermore, the Appellate Division pointed out that the law only protects the benefits of current retirees, not the potential benefits of employees who are approaching retirement. ["(T)he fact that there can be no Constitutional impairment of pension system benefits does not create a constitutional right to stay in public employment" (see Cook v City of Binghamton, 48 NY2D 323); "(An) expectation of remaining in public employment … is not within the scope of protection afforded by the Nonimpairment Clause." (see Lake v Regan, 135 AD2d 312)] In addition, the amendment requiring PFRS members to retire at age 57 "was enacted to further a legitimate public policy goal," the Appellate Division said. Courts will probably apply a similar reasoning to other challenges to mandated early retirement on constitutional grounds. Judge Cardona dissented, commenting that "it is settled law that "[t]he Nonimpairment Clause of the New York Constitution was adopted in order to prevent the reduction of an individual's retirement benefits after he or she had joined a retirement system operated by the State or one of its civil divisions." Judge Cardona also cited Lake v Regan [supra] in support of his position. In effect Judge Cardona took the position that a member of a public retirement system is entitled to at least the level of benefits provided by law when he or she joined the system when he or she retires. Because the system provides a "defined benefit," Judge Cardona concluded that a member suffers an impairment of his or her constitutionally protected retirement benefit if the calculation of his or her "defined benefit" would be adversely affected by any amendment to the Retirement and Social Security Law prior to his or her effective date of retirement. NYPPL

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