The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review an age discrimination case involving Kentucky Retirement Systems disability retirement benefits.

The court has asked that the parties in the case, Kentucky Retirement Systems et al. vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and any outside parties that want to comment on the case file briefs and reply briefs to do so by Dec. 28.

The Kentucky Retirement Systems, an organization that provides retirement benefits for Kentucky public employees, set up a disability retirement benefits system for employees in hazardous positions who became disabled before age 55, the official normal retirement age for Kentucky workers in dangerous jobs.

Workers who continued to hold dangerous jobs past age 55 and become disabled received only normal retirement benefits, according to a description of the program given in an opinion issued by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The amount of normal retirement benefits equaled 2.5% of the employee’s final compensation times the number of years worked.

Eligible workers who became disabled before age 55 and had fewer than 20 years of service received credit for extra “unworked years” to help increase their benefits. The number of years added had to be less than or equal to the number of years worked. The number could be enough to make it as if the employee had worked for 20 years or until age 55.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took action after Kentucky Retirement Systems rejected a disability claim filed by a 61-year-old deputy sheriff on the ground who was over age 55.

The district court and a 3-judge appeals court panel sided with Kentucky Retirement Systems. The lower court and the appellate panel held that the disability retirement benefits system did not constitute a prima facie violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, in part because it was not meant to discriminate against older workers.

All 6th Circuit judges, meeting together “en banc,” ruled 10-4 that the EEOC had provided evidence for prima facie age discrimination.

The appeal to the Supreme Court deals both with whether the disability retirement benefits system was discriminatory and with questions about the extent of EEOC authority over state employers.

The docket information for the case is available ‘>Document Link

A copy of the federal government’s brief opposing Supreme Court review of the case is available