Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Court Rules that Baltimore County's Pension System Discriminated Based on Age

 The U.S. District Court in Baltimore recently ruled that Baltimore County's pension system violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The problem with the system is that it charged older employees more because in theory they would have less time to work before reaching retirement age. The pension system however was amended to add an early retirement option that was not based on age. Instead, it was based on years of service. The early retirement provision "decoupled" age from contributions making it likely that some older workers had to pay more for the same benefits that younger workers received.

The Baltimore Sun has posted a series of articles on the case. I am quoted in one article predicting that the next phase of the case will likely be a battle over damages calculations (sorry for the horn toot):

James E. Rubin, of the Rubin Employment Law Firm in Rockville, said it is "impossible to tell right now" how much the case could cost the county in damages. Typically, both sides hire their own economic analysts to calculate what people are owed.

"There will probably be dueling calculations on what the damages are," Rubin said.

Baltimore County has vowed to fight until there is no one left to fight. If the ruling is upheld, the County predicts. " County employees would have to repay millions of dollars in pension funding. Their paychecks would be decreased as a result of this decision."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Q: How many times has the Montgomery County Domestic Worker Law been enforced?

A:  Once

Since 2008, Montgomery County, Maryland, has a Domestic Worker Law.  The Law requires that a family who employs a domestic worker have a written employment contract with that worker.  The Law is enforced by the Office of Consumer Protection.  The Office may seek a civil penalty of not more than $1,000.00 for each violation, and additional damages, restitution, or any other available legal or equitable relief.

A recent Washington Post article noted that the Office has only sought to enforce the law once.  According to the article:

Take the law passed in 2008 requiring residents to offer domestic workers a written contract. At the time, Council member Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) said he was worried about “whether we would be deemed to be the nanny government of all time.” 
Still, the bill passed unanimously. 
Since then, it’s been enforced once.

Maryland Unemployment Overpayments

    Maryland recently issued an audit of its unemployment system.  The audit found that the Department of Unemployment Insurance (Department) was likely overpaying unemployment benefits to individuals who were actually working.  The Department cross-checks its list of benefit recipients with a nationwide list of new hires (by looking for matching social security numbers).  The audit checked the cross checking done in the third quarter of 2010 and found that the Department only pursued 43 of 71 individuals who cam up as a match.  The Department had not pursued the other 28 matched who received $167,200 in benefits.

    Other audit highlights:

  • The Department was also not doing a great job cross-checking its list of benefit recipients with death records, incarceration records, and records of current State employees.
  •  A Department programming error allowed employers to receive improperly a certification for a tax credit.
  • The Department had allowed improper access to critical data files.
The Department accepted all or nearly all of the audit's findings, stating that it has addressed or was in the process of addressing the identified issues.