Judgement Due in Court Battle Waged By Workers Excluded From Pension System Because of Medical Issues

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A five-year long court fight continues to play out in Jacksonville, and chances are good this lawsuit will continue to stretch on even after an initial judgement is filed.

City employees filed the class-action lawsuit after Jacksonville barred many workers with medical issues from entering the pension system. The workers say the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. From the Florida Times-Union:

The suit involves about 1,400 employees, and at one point their lawyers said the case might affect up to $500 million of pension payments, spread over 30 years. But there are too many details unanswered still for either side to talk about a price tag yet.

The employees bringing the suit argue the city violated ADA rules by requiring new workers to be screened for health problems such as diabetes and heart disease before they could enroll in the city’s pension system. People with medical issues could be blocked from enrolling in the pension and would instead pay into Social Security, or they could sign a waiver that disqualified them from getting any death or disability benefits based on their particular issue.

“The sole purpose of the examination was to address the terms under which an employee would be admitted to the pension plans, if admitted at all,” reads the judgment drafted by the plaintiffs.

The city changed its rules in 2010 to allow employees to buy pension coverage they couldn’t get earlier, but the suit is about what expenses the city should cover.

The city has argued that it has no liability in the case; if the judge rules on the side of the city, the case will wind down quickly.

But if the ruling falls on the side of employees, more court battles loom. Among them: how much does the city owe? Once that number is determined, the court will need to decide how to divvy up the damages amongst the employees.

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