Age Discrimination Protection Applies to Older Employees Only

Supreme Court held that the ADEA only applies to older workers.

The Supreme Court issued a decision this week that impacts and limits the interpretation of the age discrimination statute as it applies to employees. In General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline et al., the Supreme Court limited application of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to discrimination against older workers.

The case sought to apply the ADEA to a case where younger workers argued they were discriminated against–older employees got a benefit that the younger employees did not. The Court squarely held that the Act does not stop an employer from favoring older employees.

Held: The ADEA’s text, structure, purpose, history, and relationship to other federal statutes show that the statute does not mean to stop an employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one.

In this case, the EEOC had held that there was discrimination. It filed a brief with the Court arguing that the ADEA protected younger employees in this case (over 40 but less than 50). The Court rebuffed the EEOC this way: “Finally, the argument that the Court owes deference to the EEOC’s contrary reading falls short because the EEOC is clearly wrong.”

You can read the text of the entire decision from the link on the left hand side of the page.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47