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NY bar urges law firms to stop age discrimination

Association says mandatory retirement policies are not acceptable

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has called on law firms to stop discriminating against lawyers based on age. The timing of the NYSBA’s announcement comes on the heels of the settlement Kelley Drye recently reached with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the EEOC’s claims the firm discriminated against one of its lawyers.

In that case, a Kelley Drye partner surd the firm over its mandatory retirement policy, which mandated that when a lawyer turned 70, the firm “de-equitizes” him. In 2010, the EEOC brought the suit on the partner’s behalf, claiming the policy violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The firm settled with the EEOC last week.

Vincent E. Doyle III, president of the NYSBA, said in a statement that he was “heartened” be the settlement agreement. “Arbitrarily requiring a senior attorney to retire or assume a lesser status in a law firm solely because of age is not an acceptable policy,” added Doyle, who is a partner at Connors & Vilardo. “The retirement policies of law firms should be governed by flexibility and consideration of the needs of the firm and the individual partner.”

In 2007, the state bar’s House of Delegates voted unanimously to urge law firms to eliminate mandatory retirement policies. The NYSBA’s  Special Committee on Age Discrimination in the Profession later issued a report, which criticized the practice. “Mandatory age-related retirement is inconsistent with accepted employment practices in this country” and is “against the best interests of law firms, clients and the profession,” it said.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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