Indiana's Lake County To Axe Employees Over 65, Despite Promises To Keep Them Working Part-Time

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A financially strapped Indiana county is firing more than 30 employees over the age of 65, after earlier encouraging them to quit their jobs and work part-time.

Lake County, Indiana’s second-most populous county, told its older employees five years ago that if they left their jobs and went on Medicare -- instead of the county’s health insurance program -- they could come back to work as part-time employees.

“I was trying to do them a favor,” said 75-year-old Dennis Tobin, a payroll administrator for the county clerk. “Now they come back and say if you are part time, you can't work here anymore, period."

County officials say that the broken promise is caused by a change in federal health care laws that penalizes an employer for hiring back workers who have already retired.

"I agree it does seem heartless,” said Mike Repay (pictured), a Democratic County Commissioner who ran on a platform of “fiscal responsibility” and a promise to “eliminate waste,” according to his web site. “We have attempted to do the best we could for these individuals who have given a lot of time and sweat for us, but the fact is the law says that because they retired from us, that we can't take them back as part-time people."

From 2008 to 2010 the county offered early retirement incentives to about 200 employees in order to cut health care costs.

County Attorney John Dull said that when the county rehired the retired workers, the law permitted hiring workers who were on Medicare, but that is no longer the case, he said.

For the newly fired employees, as of October 1, they will be looking for new jobs at the ages of 65 and over.

SOURCES: Northwest Indiana Times, Mike Repay Web Site