Older police officers in Jackson, Mississippi allege that they were discriminated against when the city increased the pay for the newly hired officers.
The city said it increased pay for new officers to be more competitive with the pay of newly hired officers in other communities in the area. This increase for younger officers resulted in proportionately smaller increases to the more senior officers. In some instances, veterans with years of experience were earning less than the rookie police officers they were training.
The nation's work force is getting older. The issues decided in this case will affect many workers who are 40 years or older, the age at which coverage under the Age Discrimination in Employment (ADEA) of 1967 begins.
Both the Federal District Court in Jackson and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sided with the City. The Appeals Court in a 2 to 1 vote ruled the ADEA does not cover neutral policies that have a differential impact on different age groups. It upheld the lower court ruling, stating that the ADEA requires proof of intentional discrimination.
The case highlights a dispute in the federal court system about remedies available to older workers when job policies that appear neutral actually have a disproportionately harsh effect on older workers. Some federal courts allow disparate impact claims under the ADEA, and others do not.
Congress used Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a model when it passed the ADEA in 1967, and the argument has been that the ADEA should be interpreted in the same manner.
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case involving alleged age discrimination even though there is no proof that their employer deliberately singled out older workers for unfavorable treatment.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that neutral policies that have a differential impact on different age groups are no