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Government employers cannot discriminate based on age

It may seem that the longer an Illinois resident stays in the same job, the better they will become at completing their tasks. Through experience and determination a long-term employee may become an asset to their employer as they are able to take on more complex and sensitive tasks due to their knowledge. However, it is an unfortunate truth that some experienced and older employees find themselves on the receiving end of discrimination based on their age. The United States Supreme Court recently addressed an age discrimination issue, though, and came down on the side of workers.

Two firefighters were fired by their employer when budget constraints forced their department to take action. The two firefighters were the most senior members of the department and also the oldest. They filed claims with the EEOC and were allowed to sue in federal court; the district court that heard their matter, however, denied their claims because the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is not supposed to apply to employers who have fewer than 20 workers.

Their case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which overturned the district court and then was heard by the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court held that government employers of any size may not use age as a means of discriminating against employees, even if they employ fewer than 20 workers.

Restrictions on the actions that employers may take against their older employees are codified in state and federal laws. Under this recent Supreme Court decision, older government workers should feel confident to know that they may not be treated unfairly by the agencies and entities that they work for. Anyone who has experienced employment discrimination is encouraged to discuss their concerns with an employment law attorney.

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