Supreme Court Rebuffs Age-Bias Claims by Faculty
Johnson, Hans, Academe
IN A DECISION THAT EXPOSED DEEP rifts among its members, the Supreme Court ruled in January that state workers cannot bring federal age-bias claims for monetary damages against their employers, because states have "sovereign immunity" under the Eleventh Amendment. In her opinion for the five-justice majority, Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, "Older persons, . . . unlike those who suffer discrimination on the basis of race or gender, have not been subjected to a history of purposeful unequal treatment."
The ruling affected three cases that the Court considered as one. Plaintiffs in the consolidated case, Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, included thirtysix librarians and professors at two state universities in Florida and professors at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. The plaintiffs sued their institutions, alleging age bias under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967. As workers over the age of forty, they claimed they suffered promotion and pay inequities. The AAUP filed a friend-of the-court brief in the case arguing that states should not be immune under the Eleventh Amendment from age-discrimination suits for monetary damages by professors who work at public institutions. …