Insurance company wins age battle

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Supreme Court ruled yesterday afternoon that the internal retirement age at 67 set by insurance company Gjensidige does not conflict with the age discrimination rules in labor law. Karin Haare Johansen, 68, sued her long-time employers in the hopes that she would be able to work until age 70.

Johansen, supported by the Finance Sector Union, took the matter to courts last year after she was let go from her job when she had reached the maximum age for employees under the company’s occupational retirement plan. Her petition was successful in district courts, who ruled that particular circumstances would have to exist in the company in order for them to set a lower age limit, but the decision was overturned in the Court of Appeals. Yesterday’s judgement in Supreme Court sets precedence for Norwegian retirement law.

The ruling determines that Norwegian company’s are permitted to set internal retirement age requirements, as long as the implementation is consistent and employees are adequately informed.

“She is very disappointed and surprised over the outcome,” Pål Behrens, the union lawyer that represented Johansen, told newspaper Aftenposten. He is perplexed at the court’s decision to ignore leading politicians and social economists, who argue that it is important to retain seniors in the workforce for as long as possible.

Johansen has worked for Gjensidige for 27 years, and will now have to pack up her belongings and accept her forced retirement. “It is strange to not be allowed to work when you really would like to, and you are basically stopped by your own employer,” Johansen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) in December last year.

The Center for Senior Politics has been petitioning to remove age requirements for retirement, currently set at 70 years old. The organization has heard from several seniors who desire to remain in the workforce after coming of age. “They are upset that they are being stopped at an age where they would like to work. The 70-year limit is also an indicator that you have expired, and are no longer useful,” Åsmund Lunde, center director told Aftenposten.

Lunde argues that labor laws and regulations on age discrimination are contradictory. “We have a prohibition against age discrimination embedded in the law, and in the same paragraph it stipulates that companies can terminate people when they are 70 years old. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Views and News from Norway/Liv Buli
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