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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new section to its Compliance Manual which provides the Commission’s first comprehensive analysis of some of the most important employee benefits issues under the anti-discrimination laws. The new Compliance Manual section, issued on October 3, 2000, analyzes benefit discrimination claims under each of the laws enforced by the Commission, clearly explaining that the laws prohibit discrimination in fringe benefits. “This guidance makes clear that employers are never allowed to consider employees’ race, color, sex, national origin, or religion, nor retaliate against them, in connection with their benefits plan,” said EEOC Chairperson Ida L. Castro in a statement. “The section also explains that benefit plan provisions that differentiate on the basis of age or disability must be carefully scrutinized to ensure they do not run afoul of the law.” The section examines the legal standards that apply to claims of discrimination in health and life insurance benefits, long-term and short-term disability benefits, severance benefits, pension or other retirement benefits, and early retirement incentives. The limited circumstances in which the law permits employers to provide lower benefits to older employees than to younger workers and the specific requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act are set forth. “Issuing this new section is a major step in the EEOC’s continuing efforts to update and streamline its Compliance Manual in order to aid our investigators and attorneys in handling claims involving discrimination in employee benefits while also enhancing our customer service,” commented Chairperson Castro. The new Compliance Manual section replaces former Section 627: Employee Benefit Plans and seven other Commission policy statements. The full text the new section is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov. This is the second issuance of new sections to the Compliance Manual in recent months. In May, the EEOC issued a new section on “threshold” issues, the factors considered by the Commission in determining who can pursue a legal claim of employment discrimination.

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