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"High court lets stand FAA's rule on pilots' retirement"

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

High court lets stand FAA's rule on pilots' retirement 
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a pilot
group's challenge to a federal rule forcing them to retire at age 60.

Justices let stand a lower ruling in favor of the Federal Aviation
Administration, which says the retirement rule for commercial pilots is
necessary for safety. Officials have argued that pilots lose critical
cognitive and motor skills as they age.

The regulation, adopted during the 1950s, automatically bars airline pilots
from flying after they reach 60, regardless of their health. A group of 12
pilots called that discriminatory and said their competency and health
should be considered when deciding their ability to fly.

The pilots' appeal was backed by low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines, which
argued in a friend-of-the-court filing that FAA data show older pilots are
"as safe as, and in some cases safer than, their younger colleagues."

"The 1950s-era age 60 rule, coupled with the FAA's rigid implementation of
it, arbitrarily deprives Southwest Airlines of some of its best pilots at
the peak of their careers," the airline wrote.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court expanded job protections for workers
age 40 and over by allowing them to file age bias claims over hiring and
salary policies that disproportionately hurt them even if employers never
intended any harm.

But the 5-3 opinion also granted employers additional defenses to ultimately
win at trial by citing reasonable explanations for their policies, such as
safety. In doing so, justices reasoned that age can affect performance in
some occupations.


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