AARP reports that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that employees of state and local governments are protected against age discrimination at work, no matter how small their agency may be.
John Guido and Dennis Rankin, two former firefighters in Arizona, sued the Mount Lemmon Fire District, arguing that the agency laid them off because of their ages — 46 and 54, respectively, at the time they were let go in 2009.
The fire department claimed it was exempt from the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects workers age 40 and older because it had fewer than 20 workers.
Most state laws apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees, and often provide stronger protection for older workers than federal law.
Under the ADEA, you can’t be denied the opportunity to participate in your employer’s benefit plans because of your age. Employers also can’t reduce benefits based on age, unless the cost of providing the benefit increases with age.
In these instances, the employer must incur the same cost for providing the benefits to older workers as it does for younger workers in order to comply with the ADEA.
The Court ruled that the law “leaves scant room for doubt” that state and local governments are employers covered by the ADEA, regardless of their size.