Recently, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion that will have a significant impact in federal age discrimination cases against government employers. In the case Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, the Court held the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to government employers of all sizes.
When the ADEA was passed in 1967, it added age to the list of characteristics that could not be used by an employer as a basis for an adverse employment decision. Under section 630(b), the ADEA defines the term employer as “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees.” However, the statute also states that an employer “also means … a State or political subdivision of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State.”
The Facts of the Case
According to the Court’s opinion, the plaintiffs were two men, aged 46 and 54, who were terminated from their positions by the defendant fire department when the fire department began facing budgetary concerns. The fire department was a political subdivision of the State of Arizona. At the time they were fired, the employees were the oldest two firefighters in the department.
After they were terminated, the former employees pursued claims of age discrimination. The two men made the argument that the term “also means” in section 630(b) was additive, rather than clarifying, and was meant to include government employers of all sizes. The defendant fire department argued the ADEA did not apply to it because the department did not have 20 or more employees. The department argued the term “also means” was included to clarify that a government employer could be considered an “employer” so long as it had 20 or more employees.
The Supreme Court’s Opinion and Its Practical Significance
The Supreme Court determined the ADEA applied to the fire department in question. The Court took a look at the plain language of the statute, noting the term “also means” is typically intended to be additive, rather than clarifying. The Court cited other statutes in which the term “also means” was used in an additive fashion.
As a result of the Court’s opinion, the ADEA will apply to all government employers, regardless of the number of employees.
Have You been the Victim of Age Discrimination in Texas?
If you or someone you know has recently been fired from your job or passed over for a promotion, and you believe it was based on your age, contact the zealous advocates at Rob Wiley, P.C. We represent those who have been unfairly treated by both government and private employers. We handle cases in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area. To speak with a DFW employment attorney about your situation, call 214-528-6500 to schedule an initial consultation today.
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Responsibilities of Texas Employers under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Dallas Employment Lawyer Blog, November 2, 2018.