Category Archive: Law Updates

  1. SCOTUS: Age Discrimination in Employment Act extends to small state and local government employers

    Leave a Comment

    This week, the Supreme Court of the United States held that although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) covers private-sector employees with 20 or more employees, it also covers state and local government employers, regardless of the number of employees they have.

    Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, arose after the Mount Lemmon Fire District, an 11-employee political subdivision, laid off its two oldest firefighters, John Guido (age 46) and Dennis Rankin (age 54).  The men alleged age discrimination.  The Fire District’s defense was that it did not qualify as an “employer” under the law. 

    The issue was one of statutory interpretation. The ADEA defines “employer” as a person or entity with 20 or more employees.  A 1974 amendment to the ADEA, however, added state and local governments to the definition of “employer.” In addition, it amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which extends to all government employers regardless of size.

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the firefighters, creating a split with other Circuits.  It held that the language of the ADEA should be read to group public employers apart from  private ones, to whom the 20-employee threshold applies. 

    In an 8-0 decision authored by Justice Ginsberg, SCOTUS agreed with the Ninth Circuit, dismissing Fire District concerns about ADEA liability endangering small public employers’ operations.  The opinion noted that for 30 years the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted the ADEA as covering political subdivisions regardless of size.  Moreover, a majority of states also proscribe political subdivisions from discriminating on the basis of age, with no numerical threshold, and with no adverse consequences for smaller agencies.

  2. SCOTUS to Hear Oral Argument in First Amendment Retaliatory Arrest Case Against Law Enforcement Officers

    Leave a Comment

    Nieves v. Bartlett:  SCOTUS to Hear Oral Argument in First Amendment Retaliatory Arrest Case Against Law Enforcement Officers

    By: Kathleen Wieneke

    For the third time in seven years, the Supreme Court is faced with the question of whether probable cause bars a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim under 42 U. S. C. § 1983.  On November 26, 2018, the Court will hear oral argument in Nieves v. Bartlett, a Ninth Circuit case out of Alaska, and will once again confront the issue of whether probable cause for the underlying arrest ends the retaliatory arrest inquiry.  Despite the overwhelming majority of Circuit Courts barring such claims, under current Ninth Circuit precedent, a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim may proceed, even where probable cause exists.  In 2012, in Reichle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658, the Supreme Court dodged the question of the probable cause bar by granting qualified immunity to law enforcement officers because the law was not clearly established.  In 2018, in Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, 568 U.S. 115, the Court again declined to reach the issue, deciding only that a retaliatory arrest claim against a municipality could survive a “but for” causation test.  Hoping the third time will be the charm, the Supreme Court may finally decide in Nieves to resolve the split in the Circuits and conclude that the existence of probable cause defeats a First Amendment claim for retaliatory arrest under 42 U. S. C. § 1983.