The U.S. Supreme Court should not allow employees to file constitutional lawsuits for alleged age discrimination because employees already have ample legal remedies in place, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the Illinois School Boards Association say in an amicus brief.
The brief in Madigan v. Levin urges the Court to deny an employee’s ability to add an Equal Protection Clause claim to a lawsuit that alleges age discrimination against the employer. NSBA argues in the brief that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the main federal employment law that protects individuals over the age of 40, provides the employee sufficient avenues for resolution and remedies for discrimination. Under the ADEA, older employees may sue employers, including school districts, for damages, back pay, reinstatement, injunctive relief, and attorney fees. If the Supreme Court holds that employees are also allowed to concurrently sue under the Equal Protection Clause, school district staff, teachers and officials will be personally liable for monetary damages.
“School districts often make district-wide employment decisions based upon student educational needs that impact both new and veteran employees,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “They should be able to make these decisions using their best professional judgment to ensure student achievement without the needless fear of constitutional claims.”
School districts are particularly vulnerable to age-discrimination lawsuits because a majority of school employees are 40 or more years old. School districts may take employment actions to serve their educational goals that affect these older employees to a greater degree than younger staff. For instance, if a school district attempts to reassign more experienced teachers, who are likely to be older, to an academically struggling school, those teachers might resist the assignment by filing an age-discrimination lawsuit.
The case was spurred by a former assistant attorney general in Illinois, Harvey Levin, whose job was terminated when he was 60 years old. He sued the State of Illinois, the Illinois Attorney General, and several other employees in their official and personal capacities under both the ADEA and the Equal Protection Clause. The lower court has ruled that the employee can bring claims under both laws.
“If the Supreme Court affirms the Equal Protection Clause as a means for addressing alleged age discrimination, this case could mean prolonged, expensive litigation and potential personal liability of school officials,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The net result would be a chilling effect on school officials’ ability to properly supervise personnel out of fear of personal liability.”