Lemonade from Mount Lemmon?
By: Michael J. Needleman
In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, the Supreme ruled – unanimously – that the 20 employee threshold of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 630 does not apply to any state or local agency or political subdivision. In a short opinion, Justice Ginsburg wrote for the unanimous Court that Congress amended the ADEA several times over the years, but did not include language that carried the 20 employee threshold. And insofar as the ADEA is based in large part on the Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies to all employers public or private, regardless of the number of employees, the 20 employee threshold could not be read into the statute.
This opinion is significant because it means local governments are now subject to suit over age discrimination, even if they fail to meet the 20 employee threshold. It is also significant because this was a unanimous decision, an unusual occurrence even when there were not stark divisions among the Justices, as there are now. (This is quite an understatement, we realize.)
If you are a business manager, town manager, mayor or council person in a municipality with entities whose employees number less than 20, should you be worried? Perhaps not. The Supreme Court in Guido validated the existing state of affairs. The EEOC has consistently held the belief that the 20 employee threshold does not apply to political subdivisions or state agencies. But, claims still have to be proven, and nothing in the new opinion from the Court makes any changes in how or whether such cases are proven. Therefore, having good and effective litigators defend the town, agency or department is crucial.
If you have questions, or would like additional information, please contact Mike Needleman, Partner in Reger Rizzo & Darnall’s Employment Practices Group, at 215.495.6513, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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