All state and local governments need to comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, no matter their size.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that local governments with small workforces must comply with a federal law against age discrimination.
The justices ruled Tuesday in favor of two Arizona firefighters who claimed they were laid off because of their age when their local fire district faced a budget crisis.
According to Route Fifty:
But the issue before the Supreme Court was not whether the Mount Lemmon Fire District discriminated against Guido and Rankin. Instead, the justices were looking at the question of whether a small public agency like Mount Lemmon could even be sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
The fire district, which at the time of the lay off had just 11 full-time employees, argued they were exempt from the law, as is the case with private-sector employers with fewer than 20 workers. But Guido and Rankin, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the law covers any public employer.
In a short opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with the firefighters. All the other justices joined the 8-0 decision, with the exception of new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who wasn’t on the court when it was heard in early October.
While the original 1967 law applied to private employers with at least 20 workers, Ginsburg noted, the 1974 amendment said the term employer “also means” a state or its political subdivision without any numerical threshold.
The ruling upheld a decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, but several others, including the 7th Circuit in Chicago and the 10th Circuit in Denver, had ruled earlier that the federal age bias law did not cover employees in small local government agencies.
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