U.S. Supreme Court Holds ADEA Applies to All Government Employers, Regardless of Size

November 12, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applies to state and local government employers, regardless of their size. The Court rejected an Arizona fire district’s argument that it could not be held liable for age discrimination under the ADEA because it only applied to state and private employers with at least 20 employees. The ADEA defines “employer” as a person “engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 20 or more employees; the term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State.” The Court held that a natural reading of “also means” indicates a new category of employers that is not subject to the 20-employee threshold set forth in the first part of the definition. Based on this interpretation, the Court ruled that the ADEA applies to state and local employers, regardless of their size.