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Posts Tagged ‘age discrimination’

U.S. Supreme Court Holds All Public Employers Are Covered By The ADEA

Posted on: November 9th, 2018

By: Brent Bean

On November 6, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated opinion in Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. v. Guido, 586 U.S. __ (2018), which FMG previously discussed here.  At issue was whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) applies to all state and political subdivisions, regardless of the size of their workforce.

The ADEA generally prohibits employers from discriminating in their employment decisions against employees over the age of forty.  29 U.S.C. § 621-634.  The ADEA, however, only applies to private sector employers with more than twenty employees.  To that end, ADEA defines “employer” as:

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 term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) 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, but such term does not include the United States.  29 U.S.C. 630(b) (emphases added).

The Supreme Court took this case to resolve the circuit split among the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits on the one hand, all of which had held that the ADEA’s twenty-employee threshold applies to a State or political subdivision, and the Ninth Circuit, on the other hand, which ruled that the ADEA’s twenty-employee minimum does not apply to those employers.

Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Ginsburg held that the plain language of the statute, “also means,” is additive, rather than clarifying.  As such, there is no twenty-employee threshold for a State or political subdivisions.  The Court rejected the fire district’s argument that the ADEA should be analogized to Title VII, where numerical limits apply to private and public sector employers with equal force.  Instead, Justice Ginsburg wrote, the ADEA, amended in 1974 to cover state and local governments, was more akin to the FLSA, amended that same year, which has no workforce limit.

Accordingly, the ADEA applies with greater scope to cover all state and political subdivisions without limitation to the size of their workforce.  We recommend that public sector employers, especially those which have smaller workforces, revisit their handbooks and training on complying with, and avoiding litigation under, the ADEA.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Brent Bean at [email protected].

U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether Age Discrimination Statute Applies to Small Public Employers

Posted on: September 27th, 2018

By: Brent BeanKoty Newman

The U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. v. Guido, 200 L. Ed. 313, (U.S., Feb. 26, 2018), to determine whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) applies to state political subdivisions, regardless of size.

Generally, the ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on the individual’s age if that individual is at least forty years of age.  29 U.S.C. § 621-634.  But who qualifies as an employer for the purposes of the ADEA?  The ADEA defines “employer” as:

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 term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) 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, but such term does not include the United States.  29 U.S.C. 630(b).

The Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits have all held that the ADEA’s twenty-employee threshold applies to state political subdivisions.  However, the Ninth Circuit recently disagreed and ruled that the ADEA’s twenty-employee minimum does not apply to state political subdivisions, reasoning that the statute can be read to include all state and political subdivisions without the cap.

In the case before the Ninth Circuit, John Guido and Dennis Rankin were hired in 2000 by the Mount Lemmon Fire District.  They were the two oldest full-time employees of the Fire District when they were both terminated on the same day, June 15, 2009.  The district court dismissed their case, agreeing with the Sixth, Seventh, Eight, and Tenth Circuits that the ADEA twenty-employee requirement applies to state political subdivisions.  However, on appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed, accepting the argument that the word “also” in the statute supports the proposition that there are three distinct groups of employers: (1) private employers who employ twenty or more employees; (2) their agents; and (3) state public employers regardless of how many people they employ.

Despite these arguments, the Fire District has a “powerful rebuttal,”—as the Ninth Circuit recognized but ultimately dismissed—because it has the weight of four other circuits on its side, who have all declared 29 U.S.C. § 630(b) to be ambiguous.  The Fire District asserts that the “also means” sentence in § 630(b) “clarifies what the first includes,” and therefore does not create a separate distinct category of public employer that is not subject to the ADEA’s twenty-employee threshold.

The Supreme Court has scheduled argument for October 1, 2018.  Thus, it will not be too long before the legal world can start reading the tea leaves regarding the Justices’ reactions to the parties’ arguments.

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Brent Bean [email protected] or Koty Newman at [email protected].

Are Your Facebook Job Postings Violating the ADEA

Posted on: February 8th, 2018

By: Brenton S. Bean

So say putative class action plaintiffs in the Northern District of California.  See Communications Workers of America et al v. T-Mobile US, Inc., et al, Case No. 5:17-cv-7232 (N.D. Ca), filed Dec. 20, 2017.  Plaintiffs assert that Facebook has become the modern employment agency, providing not only a platform, but also data and strategies to help employers find candidates.  The lawsuit alleges that Facebook allows, and in some instances requires, a target audience be defined, which includes age restrictions.  In addition, Facebook uses its own massive database and algorithms to determine which users will see the ads, often on the basis of age.  This practice of “microtargeting” advertisements for employment discriminates against older workers, plaintiffs say.

Shortly before the lawsuit was filed, the New York Times ran an article regarding Facebook advertising and age discrimination.  Facebook and other social media sites have recently become more popular means by which employers advertise for job openings.  The Times story indicates many companies use Facebook’s ability to target its users by demographics, such as age, and therefore have discriminated against job applicants by restricting the scope of their Facebook ads to younger Facebook users.  Interestingly, that use of an age restriction is not always limited to cases where the advertiser requests such a restriction.  Facebook also takes the parameters identified by the employer and uses its own statistical methodologies to target the ad.  That means age restrictions may have been used in advertisements without the advertiser’s knowledge, according to the claim.

The scope of the case is potentially enormous.  First, the putative class size is immense.  The class as defined includes all Facebook users nationwide who are age 40 and older, who are interested in receiving employment-related advertisements or recruiting from employers via Facebook, and who were excluded from receiving an ad because of their age.  Second, the complaint names not only four defendant employers, but also a defendant class of employers and employment agencies.  Plaintiffs alleged there may be a thousand or more members of the defendant class, which could include every employer that has used age-limited Facebook ads.  In addition to the federal ADEA claim (which is expected to be amended once the charge process runs its course), plaintiffs have asserted claims under state law for discriminatory advertising and disparate impact recruiting and hiring.

While the named defendants are primarily large companies, the putative defendant class may also include many smaller employers.  Whether potentially implicated or not, companies are advised to review their job placement advertising.  At this juncture, it is too early to assess the class’s chances or the merits, either under the ADEA or the articulated state law claims.  We will monitor this matter closely.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Brenton Bean at [email protected].