Ending LTD benefits at 65 not age discrimination: Adjudicator

Worker claimed she was forced to retire, take pension after LTD benefits ended
By Jeffrey Smith
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/16/2016

Mandatory retirement no longer exists in Ontario, meaning workers who reach the age of 65 can continue working if they wish. Employers that try to pressure older workers into retiring can face claims of age discrimination. But does this right apply to workers receiving long-term disability benefits? Not if the plan specifies that benefits end and the pension begins at 65, according to an adjudicator.

Trudy Austin began working for Bell Canada in 1969. In 2002, she had to go on long-term disability (LTD) leave. Bell’s LTD plan included an income protection program that stipulated benefits — upon which the employee would continue to make pension contributions the same as if actively working — would end when the employee reached 65 years of age. At that point, the pension benefits earned under the company’s pension plan would kick in.

In 2014, Austin suffered a medical issue that required some recovery. By October of that year, she felt stronger and more confident, so she thought she could try to return to work after 12 years of LTD leave. She saw her doctor, who informed Bell that Austin was ready to try to return to work. Over the next couple of months, a plan was formulated for a graduated return to work in an accommodated position.