The Aftermath of the Cash Balance Controversy: Defining Age Discrimination for Traditional Defined Benefit Pensions

47 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2009 Last revised: 29 Mar 2015

Edward A. Zelinsky

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Date Written: February 3, 2009

Abstract

The appellate decisions upholding cash balance pensions against the claim of age discrimination are unconvincing. Nevertheless, these decisions reach the proper result as a matter of pension policy. These decisions read the statutory term "benefit accrual" as meaning employer contributions for purposes of measuring for age-based pension discrimination in the defined benefit context. However unpersuasive this reading may be as a textual matter, it reaches a sound outcome in terms of pension policy. In particular, this reading of the pension age discrimination statutes enables employers sponsoring traditional, annuity-paying defined benefit pensions to control their costs by decreasing the annual growth of the accrued benefits earned by older employees. This ability to subdue costs will encourage employers to remain with their traditional defined benefit plans rather than move to the cash balance format or 401(k). On the other hand, controlling costs by reducing the rates at which older workers accrue additional benefits will disappoint the reasonable pension expectations of some, perhaps many, of those older workers.

Keywords: pensions, 401(k), age discrimination, defined benefit plans, pension protection act, annuity

Suggested Citation

Zelinsky, Edward A., The Aftermath of the Cash Balance Controversy: Defining Age Discrimination for Traditional Defined Benefit Pensions (February 3, 2009). Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 251. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1337296 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1337296

Edward A. Zelinsky (Contact Author)

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-790-0277 (Phone)

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