U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS to hear age-bias case of fired assistant AG; issue is right to bypass federal law

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether an assistant Illinois attorney general who lost his job at the age of 61 can sue for a violation of the equal protection clause under Section 1983.

The Illinois attorney general argues the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is the exclusive remedy and former employee Harvey Levin cannot bypass the law, SCOTUSblog and United Press International report. Levin, who was hired at the age of 55 in 2000, was fired along with 11 other lawyers in 2006, according to the cert petition (PDF).

The issue of whether the ADEA displaces Section 1983 claims by state and local government workers is “an important and frequently recurring question over which the lower federal courts are hopelessly divided,” the cert petition says.

SCOTUSblog cites one benefit of suing for the constitutional violation: A worker suing under the Constitution does not have to first go through a conciliation process with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, punitive damages are available under Section 1983, but not under the ADEA, according to the cert petition.

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