In a drawn-out battle over mandatory retirement, the University of Prince Edward Island has been ordered to compensate three professors after they were forced into retirement at age 65.
The PEI Human Rights Commission ruled in September that faculty members Barry Bartmann, Ronald Collins and Robert O’Rourke are owed more than $335,000 for lost income and pension contributions, as well as general damages and costs.
According to the ruling, UPEI owes Bartmann nearly $220,000 for lost income from 2007 to 2010, and Collins more than $100,000 for lost income from 2008 to 2010. Both complainants are also to receive interest on lost wages.
The third complainant, Robert O’Rourke, withdrew his claim for lost wages because he was able to find work in the interim, which offset his losses.
All three were reinstated last year in their former positions with the university, but only Bartmann remains after the others voluntarily retired in September 2010.
This is the second ruling the commission has made on the issue of mandatory retirement at UPEI, after concluding last year the university discriminated against another group of employees who were forced to retire in 2005 and 2006 at age 65.
In that decision, the commission ruled in favour of psychology professor Thomy Nilsson, sociology professor Richard Wills, and Yogi Fell, who worked at UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College. The university was ordered to pay the three employees almost $700,000 for loss of income.
The university has since reinstated the three in their former positions.
UPEI suspended its mandatory retirement provisions in the aftermath of the first decision, but appealed the commission’s ruling both on the findings of discrimination and amount of compensation. No payments have been made to any of the complainants.
In February 2011, PEI’s Supreme Court dismissed the university’s request that payout of claims be delayed until the substantive issues are heard on appeal. UPEI had argued that if it completed the payouts and then won the court challenge, it would be difficult or impossible to get the money back.
The university has now taken the case to the PEI Court of Appeal, and has offered only to pay the ordered compensation into a bank account until the courts make a final decision.
The appeal is scheduled for hearings in November.