Age Discrimination in Employment

On November 6, 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously  that the federal law which prohibits age discrimination in employment applies to state and local governments, regardless of their size.

The case, Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, involved a municipal fire department that laid off its two oldest firefighters who were 46 and 54 at the time. The men filed an age discrimination lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

The ADEA protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

The ADEA defines “employer” as a person or entity with 20 or more employees. The Mount Lemmon Fire District claimed that it was too small to qualify as an employer under the law. However, the Supreme Court ruled that “employer” also means a state or a political subdivision of a state.

All 50 states have enacted their own employment discrimination laws, many of which are similar to federal law, but offer additional prohibitions against job discrimination based on marital status, sexual preference, or disability.

The ADEA is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Employees cannot file an employment discrimination lawsuit without first receiving written permission from the EEOC.

The recoverable damages or compensation available to employees under the ADEA include back pay, reinstatement, promotion, or other reasonable accommodations relevant to the type of losses the discrimination caused.

Generally, large monetary judgments including punitive damages are reserved for class action employment discrimination lawsuits which are usually filed against large corporate employers.

If you are 40 years old or older and believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer.

For advice on finding employment over 50, listen to this podcast with Janet Logan from My Coaching Services.

The information on this website is intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis of legal advice of any kind. Individuals seeking specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.


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New Jersey lawyer turned blogger, podcaster and legal changemaker.