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Retirement Law Hits Some Professions

February 11, 1988|DON G. CAMPBELL | Times Staff Writer

Question: Your recent comments regarding the legal rule that says California employees cannot be automatically fired by their employers simply because of their age is generally true. You should know, however, that this legal right somehow does not apply to professors.

A professor's brain functions very adequately up to 69 years, 364 days, the state of California holds. Then, within the next 24 hours, it is noted, the professor's mind deteriorates into a hopelessly irrational mess that renders him or her quite incapable of instructing students successfully.

We professors cannot find out how this peculiar discriminatory practice was concocted or legalized, nor why we were picked to be its exclusive victims. Perhaps you can, and will, publicize your findings.

--Ex-prof. P.G.

Answer: Wouldn't you know that there are exceptions to virtually every general rule? In your case, it was tucked into the Higher Education Act of 1985, but you can take some comfort, perhaps, in the fact that professors aren't the only exceptions to the otherwise general prohibition against job termination based strictly on age.

But, where age 65 used to be the permissible cutoff level, it--as you pointed out--has, at least, been moved up to age 70. Who, besides professors, fall into this category?

Same Category

According to Carol Schiller, regional administrator for the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in Southern California, corporate executives with annual earnings of $27,000 or more fall into the same category, as do physicians who are a part of a professional medical corporation.

In the case of professors, Schiller added, the legal authority to force retirement at age 70 applies only to tenured professors in institutions of higher education, and such terminations must go hand-in-hand with an opportunity for such professors to continue their teaching (or research) careers on a year-to-year basis.

You can get five different rationales from any five different people for why professors, executives and physicians were so singled out.

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