November 15, 2018

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November 13, 2018

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Supreme Court: Age Discrimination in Employment Act Applies to All State, Local Government Employers

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to state and local government employers, regardless of their size, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a unanimous (8-0) seven-page decision. Mount Lemmon Fire District v. GuidoNo. 17-587 (Nov. 6, 2018).

The Court’s ruling resolves a significant circuit split among the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, on the one hand, and the Ninth Circuit, on the other.

The Court rejected an Arizona fire district’s argument that it could not be held liable for age discrimination under the ADEA because the Act applies only to state and private employers with at least 20 employees.

The ADEA defines “employer” as a person “engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 20 or more employees .… The term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State.” 29 U.S.C. § 630(b).

Affirming the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Court held that a natural reading of “also means” indicates a new category of employers that is not subject to the 20-employee threshold set forth in the first part of the definition. Based on this interpretation, the Court ruled that the ADEA applies to state and local employers, regardless of their size.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for the Court, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

In light of this decision, small state and local government entities may need to reevaluate some of their employment practices. 

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2018

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About this Author

Collin O'Connor Udell, Attorney, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Supreme Court Litigation
Of Counsel

Collin O’Connor Udell is Of Counsel in the Hartford, Connecticut, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on United States Supreme Court litigation and on complex or novel issues arising in other federal appeals. She has taken a central role in 35 cases before the United States Supreme Court, some of which have been widely acknowledged as among the most important cases of the last few terms.

In addition to her Supreme Court experience, Ms. Udell has represented clients in a wide variety of cases in the federal courts of appeals, including matters...

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Abraham Saiger, Jackson Lewis Law Firm, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
KM Attorney

Abraham (“Avi”) Saiger is the Knowledge Management (“KM”) Attorney for Jackson Lewis P.C.’s General Employment Litigation Practice Group, and is based in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Mr. Saiger creates and manages legal and electronic resources and materials to provide innovative client services, serves as a resource for other practice group members, monitors and analyzes regulatory and case law developments, and contributes to the firm’s blogs and legal updates. In his role, Mr. Saiger draws upon his years of litigation experience in defending employers in a broad range of employment matters before federal and state courts and administrative agencies throughout the Midwest.

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