Who Is An Employer Under The ADEA?

A seemingly straightforward question has serious implications in many employment contexts – and can determine your right to recover damages if you have suffered illegal discrimination. That question – “who is your employer?” – was just evaluated in a significant Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) matter.

In Holloway v. Water Works & Sewer Bd. Of Vernon, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama reviewed the claim of a 66-year-old former general manager of a municipal board – the Water Works and Sewer Board of the Town of Vernon. The man asserted that a few weeks after his 66th birthday when he stated that he plan to continue working for a few more years, he was fired and replaced by someone substantially younger.

He then filed a claim for age discrimination pursuant to the ADEA. Like the other anti-discrimination laws, the ADEA prohibits any type of adverse action against you because of your age, including the failure to hire you or a discharge because of your age. This also includes age harassment, which typically involves hostility or abuse directed at you by other employees because of your age. The ADEA also prohibits retaliation against you for complaining about age discrimination or for participating in someone else’s age discrimination case.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your age, speaking to an experienced Atlanta age discrimination attorney is important to begin and investigation and determine your next steps.

One significant difference between the ADEA and other discrimination laws is that generally the ADEA only considers an entity to be an “employer” if it employs more than 20 people, whereas in sex and race discrimination laws generally apply to those entities that employ at least 15. In Holloway, the board tried to use this argument as a defense to its firing of the general manager. However, the court rejected this argument explaining that the ADEA provides separate considerations for “political subdivisions of a State and any agency or instrumentality of a State or a political subdivision of a State” that is separate from the 20-employee threshold,” and that this applies to public agencies such as the water board. While this ruling contradicts what other circuits have found, it provides a significant ruling in favor of finding that public agencies that employ fewer than 20 employees may still be considered “employers” for purposes of the ADEA.

For more information or if you believe that you may have suffered illegal age discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact the knowledgeable Georgia age discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate, confidential case evaluation.