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MUNICIPAL LAW: U.S. Supreme Court holds that anti-discrimination statute applies to state and municipal employers, regardless of size

A unanimous Court ruled in favor of Arizona firefighters who sued for age discrimination under federal law. The two oldest men in the fire department were let go after a budget shortfall and replaced with younger, less expensive, people.

The ruling ran counter to most circuits that sought to shield small public organizations from such discrimination lawsuits.  The justices stuck with the plain reading of the law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), even though more litigation is the likely result. The statute defines the term “employer” to mean “a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year….” The statute further states that the term “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, and any interstate agency….”

Now, any state or political subdivision, regardless of how many employees they have, must comply with the law that protects workers over the age of 40.

Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, __ US ___ (11/8/18)