Circuit Split Over Age Discrimination Heads to High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) – Taking up age-discrimination claims by two Arizona firemen, the Supreme Court agreed Monday to settle a circuit split about how to certify state agencies as employers.

Though the 10th, Eighth, Seventh and Sixth Circuits have all held otherwise, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling last year in Guido v. Mount Lemmon Fire District that said a political subdivision of a state need not have 20 or more employees to qualify as an employer subject under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

John Guido and Dennis Rankin alleged violations of the law in a 2013 federal complaint — four years after the Mount Lemmon Fire District fired them at ages 46 and 54, respectively.

The fire district had hired both men in 2000. They served as full-time firefighter captains and were the two oldest full-time employees at the district when they were terminated.

Though the trial court sided with the district at summary judgment — saying that the fire district was not an employer under the ADEA — the Ninth Circuit reversed in June 2017.

At issue is the language of the statute. “The parties agree that the twenty-employee minimum applies to ‘a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce’ and that the term ‘person’ does not include a political subdivision of a state,” the Ninth Circuit had said. “However, they dispute whether the twenty-employee minimum also applies to a ‘political subdivision of a state.”

Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any statement in taking up the case Monday.

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