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Nevada Litigation Blog

Age Discrimination In ADEA Does Not Protect Younger Workers

Written by: Edgar Carranza

In General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Dennis Cline, 2004 WL 329956, the United States Supreme Court recently clarified a long-standing dispute surrounding the applicability of the protection provided by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, 29 USC §621, et seq. The Court held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was not intended to protect younger employees over 40 from being treated differently than older employees over 40.

In 1997, a collective bargaining agreement between General Dynamics and the United Auto Workers eliminated the General Dynamics’ obligation to provide health benefits to subsequently retired employees, except as to then-current employees at least 50 years old. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to employees and workers over the age of 40. Thus Dennis Cline and other General Dynamics employees between the ages of 40 and 50, filed suit under the Age Discrimination Act (ADEA).

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids discrimination against “any individual … because of such individual’s age.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed an amicus brief outlining their position that the provision “because of such individual’s age” required protection of younger employees over 40 from being treated differently than older employees over 40. The United States Supreme Court disagreed.

The Supreme Court outlined that to uphold the EEOC’s interpretation would help the younger by hurting the older. The Court pointed out that in passing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) Congress clearly intended to protect the older employees, not the younger employees. “Social history emphatically reveals an understanding of age discrimination as aimed against the old, and the statutory reference to age discrimination in this idiomatic sense is confirmed by legislative history.”

The Court cited that the statutory objects are “to promote employment for older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; [and] to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.” The Court concluded that the “prefatory provisions and their legislative history make a case that we think is beyond reasonable doubt, that the ADEA was concerned to protect a relatively old worker from discrimination that works to the advantage of the relatively young.”

For more information regarding the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) or Nevada’s comparable state age discrimination statutes, please contact Edgar Carranza.

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