Labor & Employment

State Department Employee Can Sue for Age Discrimination, DC Circuit Rules


The State Department can not engage in age discrimination, even if the employee resides in a country that condones the behavior, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found today, in an action brought by a former Paris U.S. embassy worker forced to retire at age 65.

John R. Miller Jr. worked as a safety inspector. The State Department admitted he was fired in 2007 because of his age, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

The agency argued that under the Basic Authorities Act, which supports the promotion of hiring U.S. citizens abroad, it is exempt from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If U.S. employment laws apply to overseas State Department employees, a government lawyer told the court, it might hire foreign workers not covered by U.S. law.

“Even if the State Department were correct in reading this ambiguous passage as relating to State Department hiring, it is unclear how allowing the United States to discriminate against its own citizens on the basis of their age — or disability, race, religion, or sex — would promote the hiring of U.S. workers abroad,” Judge Merrick Garland wrote in the majority opinion (PDF).

Mandatory retirement exists in the federal government , the Law Blog notes, mentioning that foreign service officers and some federal law enforcement agencies are required to retire at a certain age.

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