Penn State

Penn State retirement offer prompts professor lawsuit

In August, Penn State offered some of its employees an opportunity to retire with a full year’s salary in their pockets.

Fred Scheid signed up for it. He didn’t get it. Now he’s suing the university.

Scheid is an assistant professor of education. In his suit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 28, Scheid said he met the criteria for the voluntary retirement program, including age and length of service to Penn State.

But in a letter from Vice President for Human Resources Susan McGarry Basso, which was included with the suit as an exhibit, it appeared the problem might have been exactly when the professor was retiring.

“We confirmed with the College of Education that your retirement date is December 31, 2016, which does not coincide with the applicable termination date of June 30 2017 required for faculty and academic administrators under the VRP provisions,” she wrote. “Therefore, you are ineligible to participate in the VRP.”

In his suit, Scheid suggested that the VRP was being offered only to select employees.

“The various department heads were instructed to hand out this information to eligible employees of their choosing,” attorney Joseph Korsak wrote in his filing.

Scheid was not one of those chosen, according to his suit, but did still apply on Sept. 21, nine days before the deadline. On Sept. 29, he wrote to Basson asking for an exception, prompting her letter.

“While I empathize with your personal situation, the provisions of the Plan Document must be applied accurately and consistency (sic) and no exceptions can be made to this legally binding document. The decision that an exception be extended to you is denied and this decision is final,” Basson wrote.

Scheid claims he is still entitled to participate and Penn State and Basso have “jointly deprived” him of $75,000.

According to Penn State, 587 faculty and staff took the university up on its offer, about 46 percent of those eligible.

“The response rate was strong and above industry standards of approximately 30-35 percent for this type of incentivized program,” said Provost Nick Jones. “This is an opportunity for strategic realignment of our work force and it offers us the ability to analyze our operations and decide how to invest our resources in the future to not only drive efficiencies, but to address various critical needs.”

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce