EEOC: Challenge to @StateDept’s Mandatory Retirement as Violation of the ADEA Fails

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Via EEOC Appeal No. 2020000116 (PDF)
DECISION:

Complainant filed a timely appeal with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) from the Agency’s decision dated July 31, 2019, dismissing his complaint of unlawful employment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.

BACKGROUND:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Information Systems Security Officer, FS-03, at the Agency’s facility in Brussels, Belgium.

On July 1, 2019, Complainant filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency subjected him to age discrimination when he was not allowed to bid for assignments in the summer 2020 job cycle, when he will reach the Agency’s mandatory retirement age. Complainant also stated, in his formal complaint, that he was being involuntarily retired in January 2020, solely on account of his age.

The Agency dismissed the complaint, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1), for failure to state a claim, stating that the ADEA does not preclude mandatory retirement provisions, including the one set forth in the Foreign Service Act which covered Complainant’s position. The instant appeal followed.
[…]
We concur that the instant complaint, which in essence challenges the Agency’s mandatory retirement at age 65 as a violation of the ADEA, fails to state a claim. Since Complainant is challenging the validity of the mandatory retirement age, which was authorized by Congress as a statutory exception to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Commission finds that his complaint has been appropriately dismissed for failure to state a claim. See Brumbaugh v. Department of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 01A05531 (Mar. 29, 2001) (the mandatory retirement provisions of the Foreign Service Act must be given “full force and effect” and the ADEA cannot be read to prohibit their implementation, citing to Strawberry v. Department of State, No. 96-5221 (D.C. Cir. 1997. In commenting on Strawberry, the Commission observed that the court looked at both statutes and concluded that Congress knew what it was doing in keeping the mandatory retirement provisions in place even when it otherwise outlawed mandatory retirement for most employers under the ADEA).

Accordingly, the Agency’s final decision dismissing Complainant’s complaint is AFFIRMED.

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Do you know the statutory definition of “widow” for benefit purposes?

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Gibson v. Office of Personnel Management, No. 2020-1651 (Fed. Cir. September 9, 2020) (MSPB Docket No. PH-0831-20-0011-I-1): The appellant sought survivor annuity benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System, contending that she is a “widow” of a retired Federal employee. OPM denied the appellant’s application for benefits, finding that she did not meet the statutory definition of “widow” for benefit purposes under 5 U.S.C. § 8341(a)(1)(A), because the marriage to her husband lasted from May 21, 2018, until his death on February 15, 2019 (270 days). This was short of the “at least 9 months” requirement. On appeal, the Board affirmed OPM’s determination. Before the Federal Circuit, the appellant contested the application of the term “months” and argued that each month should be counted as having 30 days, meaning her 270-day marriage was 9 months in duration. The court rejected this argument and affirmed the Board’s final decision. Citing Supreme Court precedent as support, the court concluded that the phrase “9 months” has an “ordinary public meaning” that counts time as calendar months. The court further explained that Congress often uses, including in the statute at issue, “days” as a unit of measurement and could have done so in 5U.S.C. § 8341(a)(1)(A) if that were its intention. The appellant presented no grounds for “erasing the clear distinction between familiar counting methods.”

http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/20-1651.OPINION.9-9-2020_1649543.pdf

 


 

 

UK Foreign Office’s Most Photogenic Member Palmerston to Retire as Chief Mouser

On August 6, the FCO’s Chief Mouser announced that the time has come for him to retire and spend time away from the limelight. Although Palmerston did not write a valedictory despatch, he did have a nice farewell letter complete with paw marks.
This announcement comes following a report that his boss, the Foreign Office’s Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon McDonald is also set to retire early after “the prime minister signaled he wanted someone new to head the ministry when it merges with the Department for International Development”, according to Sky News.
Farewell @DiploMog, may you enjoy your best life yet in the countryside.
Related posts:

SCA Acting Asst Secretary Alice Wells to Retire After 31 Years of Service

 

Retired Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Receives Georgetown Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy

 

On February 12, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch (Ret) receives the 2020 J. Raymond “Jit” Trainor Award for Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy at Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Previous Trainor awardees include , , and .
Amb. Thomas Pickering formally introduced Amb. Yovanovitch and discussion moderator Amb. William Burns, President of . See video of her lecture below:

Must Read: Divorce and Foreign Service Retirement Benefits

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Via UNCLASSIFIED CABLE: 19 STATE 53266 Date/DTG: May 20, 2019 / 201659Z MAY 19 available via afsa.org:

1. Divorce can impact the division of Foreign Service retirement benefits. This message from the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Retirement outlines the key rules that apply under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System (FSRDS) and the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS).

2. Please note that the guidance outlined in this message does not apply to Civil Service employees. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reviews and administers civil service court-ordered benefits. For more information, Civil Service employees should download Pamphlet RI 84-1 titled “Court Ordered Benefits for Former Spouses” from OPM’s website (https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/pamphlets/ri84-1.pdf) or view OPM’s presentation on Court Ordered Benefits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZIaRfUtQB4).

Default Statutory Entitlement

3. The Foreign Service Act provides a statutory entitlement, also referred to as a default entitlement, when a former spouse is a qualified former spouse. A former spouse is a qualified former spouse if the following criteria are met: a) was married to a Foreign Service retirement plan participant for at least 10 years of his/her creditable federal service, b) at least 5 of those 10 years occurred while the participant was a member of the Foreign Service, and c) the former spouse must not have remarried prior to the commencement of any benefits and while under the age of 55 (age 60 for remarriages prior to November 8, 1984, for benefits under FSRDS). If the above criteria are met, and the former spouse is qualified, the statutory default entitlement applies regardless of the employee’s wishes, unless a spousal agreement or court order otherwise governs the disposition of benefits.

4. Under the default statutory entitlement, a qualified former spouse is entitled to a pro rata (marital) share of 50 percent of the employee’s annuity and a pro rata share of the maximum survivor benefit. The pro rata share is a fraction: the numerator is the total length of time of marriage during which the annuity was earned and the denominator is the retiree’s total creditable service. For example, if a couple was married for 14 years during the participant’s creditable service and the participant retired with 20 years of creditable service, then the pro rata share would be 14/20, or 70 percent. The former spouse would therefore receive 35 percent of the participant’s retired pay (which is half of the 70 percent pro rata share) while the participant would receive the remaining 65 percent.

Deviating From Statutory Entitlement

5. The Foreign Service default statutory entitlement may be altered through a valid court order or notarized spousal agreement. For example, a valid court order or spousal agreement can provide an express waiver of the former spouse’s statutory entitlement or provide that the former spouse’s entitlement be based on a different calculation method than the default calculation provided for by statute. Additionally, a valid court order or spousal agreement can award benefits even if the former spouse was not married to the retiree during his/her creditable Foreign Service or even if the marriage lasted fewer than 10 years. For a court order to be given effect for a former spouse, the order must be issued within two years of any divorce or annulment becoming final.

6. Any spousal agreement or court order that claims to alter or waive retirement benefits that are due under the Foreign Service Act to a former spouse must do so expressly in order for the alteration or waiver to be effective. To expressly waive or alter benefits under the Foreign Service Act, any spousal agreement or court order must specifically refer to Foreign Service retirement benefits. Merely mentioning generic retirement benefits or erroneously referring to retirement benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is insufficient to constitute a valid waiver or alteration of benefits. For example, to constitute an express waiver or alteration, the parties may specify that the relevant language in the agreement or order pertains to survivor annuities or pensions under the Foreign Service Act, under the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability System if the annuitant is a FSRDS participant, or under the Foreign Service Pension System if the annuitant is a FSPS participant.

7. In cases where the Department determines that a spousal agreement or court order language is insufficient, the parties may negotiate a new agreement or, in certain circumstances, return to court to correct the problem. A notarized spousal agreement may change the amount of the pension paid to the former spouse at any time. A court order can adjust the amount of a survivor annuity to a former spouse provided it is issued before the death of an employee/annuitant.

Submit Your Divorce Documents For Review

8. Foreign Service members must submit all relevant divorce documentation to the Bureau of Human Resources Office of Retirement (HR/RET) prior to retirement. HR/RET strongly encourages employees to do so prior to, or at the time of divorce, or no later than one year before retirement. In cases where years have passed since the divorce, it sometimes takes time to locate the former spouse. In other cases, state court orders may fail to meet federal standards or one party contends that the order has a different meaning than the Department’s interpretation. Thus, the parties sometimes must return to court to correct the problem. That process can take time.

9. To check in advance for such problems, Foreign Service employees should e-mail a certified copy of the entire court order and all attachments to the HR Service Center at HRSC@state.gov or e-mail that address asking for mailing instructions. HR/RET will review the documentation and provide the employee and their former spouse with a divorce determination letter addressing what, if any, retirement benefits a former spouse is entitled to.

Changes In Marital Status After Retirement

10. Foreign Service annuitants (retirees, their survivors, and former spouses) must report all changes in marital status (divorce, marriage/remarriage, or death of spouse) by notifying the HR Service Center and providing the relevant documentation.

11. Delays by annuitants in reporting a marriage/remarriage occurring after the participant’s retirement can permanently prevent a survivor election. A retiree who remarries after retirement has a limited period of time within which they may be eligible to make a survivor election for the new spouse. Under FSRDS, a retiree has only one year from the date of marriage/remarriage to elect a survivor annuity for a spouse acquired after retirement. For a FSPS retiree, there is a two-year deadline. When deciding whether to make a survivor election for a spouse acquired after retirement, it is important to consider that in order to remain eligible for FEHB benefits, a retiree’s surviving spouse must be eligible to receive a survivor annuity(whether or not the annuity would be payable in whole or in part to a former spouse).

For More Information

12. We understand this short message cannot address every conceivable situation. Therefore, additional questions may be sent to HRSC@state.gov.

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EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22

Posted: 1:57 am EST

Big news last week was the soon to be departure of EUR’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell who is leaving his post after some 15 months on the job. A/S Mitchell took office in October 2017 and is resigning from his appointment effective February 15. The State Department announced that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Elisabeth Millard will serve as Acting A/S for the European and Eurasian Affairs. We’re not sure how long she will be in that acting capacity as we understand that her paperwork has been submitted to retire on February 22. The bureau appears to have six career DASes, two special envoys (one career, one noncareer), and one vacancy (Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia  – is this a newly created position?). In any case, let us know when you know who will be the next Acting A/S.

@StateDeptPM’s Tina Kaidanow Heads to DOD as Director of International Cooperation

 

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Steve Mull, Last Career Ambassador in Active Service Departs Foggy Bottom

Posted: 1:56 pm PT

 

On July 11, we posted about the nomination of Ambassador David Hale to be the next Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P); also that a second hand source informed us that Ambassador Steve Mull, the acting “P” and the last remaining Career Ambassador in the active Foreign Service is on his way to retirement (see Ambassador David Hale to be @StateDept’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs).

On July 27, Secretary Pompeo held a ceremony for Ambassador Mull. The secretary of state’s schedule only indicated that he was hosting the flag ceremony for Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, at the Department of State at 10:30 a.m. and that the event was “closed press coverage”.

After 36 years in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Mull concluded his diplomatic career this past week with what appears to be a nice official send off from the secretary of state. This is a change from the most recent redesigned practice of pushing senior career diplomats out the airlock of Starship Foggy Bottom.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo poses with Ambassador Stephen D. Mull and his wife during the flag ceremony, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 27, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Here’s a video from US Embassy Warsaw With Ambassador Mull for our send off:

 

Related posts

 

Ambassador David Hale to be @StateDept’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs

 

On July 10, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat David Hale to be the next Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P). The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador David Hale, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is the Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a position he has held since 2015.  He previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon from 2013 to 2015 and as the United States Ambassador to Jordan from 2005 to 2008.  In Washington, D.C., he has served as the Special Envoy and Deputy Special Envoy for Middle East Peace from 2009 to 2013 and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2008 to 2009.  From 2001 to 2003, Ambassador Hale was Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs.  He was Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State from 1997 and 1998.  Mr. Hale received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and he is the recipient of numerous senior State Department awards, including the Distinguished Service Award and the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Service.

The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (State/P) position is currently encumbered by Ambassador Steve Mull in an acting capacity. An unconfirmed second-hand source informed us that Ambassador Mull is registered for the retirement course at the end of August and will be leaving at the end of the fiscal year – that is, on or about September 30, 2018. With the Hale announcement, Mull’s retirement appears inevitable, the second hand info is likely true than not.  Ambassador Mull is the last remaining career ambassador in active service. His departure will signal the first time in recent memory where the Foreign Service has no career ambassador in active service.

As of this writing, Secretary Pompeo has not released a statement about this nomination. If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed Ambassador Tom Shannon as “P”. He will also become the highest ranking career Foreign Service officer at the State Department. Here are his predecessors via history.state.gov:

Related posts:

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