On October 1, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. v. Guido, which involves the issue of whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”), which protects employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or over from discrimination in the workplace because of their age, only applies to state political divisions with 20 or more employees or if it applies to state political divisions of any size. The Court has not yet issued its ruling, but this issue is of particular importance to our housing authority clients, as housing authorities are considered political subdivisions of the State of Florida, pursuant to Section 421, Florida Statutes.

Mount Lemmon Fire Dist. v. Guido involves two firefighter captains, ages 46 years and 54 years, who were terminated from employment at the Mount Lemmon Fire District, a political subdivision of the State of Arizona. The terminated employees then brought suit for age discrimination under the ADEA. The ADEA applies to an “employer,” defined 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, or a corporation wholly owned by the Government of the United States.” 29 U.S.C. § 630(b). “Person” is defined as “one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, labor organizations, corporations, business trusts, legal representatives, or any organized groups of persons.” 29 U.S.C. § 630(a).

The district court ruled in favor of the Mount Lemmon Fire District, deciding that it was not an “employer” within the meaning of the ADEA, as the Fire District did not have twenty or more employees during the relevant time period. The 9th Circuit Appeals Court, however, decided that a political subdivision of a State qualified as an “employer” under the ADEA, even if it did not have twenty or more employees, and therefore, reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. The 9th Circuit Appeals Court’s decision is in conflict with decisions of U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Tenth Circuits, and therefore, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

We will provide an update once a decision is reached by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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