Supreme Court Takes ADEA 'Disproportionate Impact' Case

March 29, 2004 ( - The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear a case to determine if older employees have rights similar to those of minorities when it comes to discrimination claims.

In the hearing, the Supreme Court will consider whether the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) permits lawsuits on grounds that an employer’s action has a disproportionate impact on older workers.   A similar suit has already been settled by the Supreme Court allowing disproportionate impact case under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to an Associated Press report.

The case in questions pits the city of Jackson, Mississippi against officers over age 40 who sued over a pay plan that they said gave larger increases to employees under age 40 and thus caused a disproportionate amount of harm .  Thomas Goldstein, the Washington lawyer representing the officers, said that the ADEA and the Civil Rights Act have the same wording, and the same purpose.   However, without unification of the statues across the country, some older workers will receive federal protections while others will not.

“As long as the circuits disagree, police officers in Jackson, Missouri (within the 8 th Circuit) are protected against policies that disproportionately affect older employees, whereas officers in Jackson, Mississippi (within the 5 th Circuit) are not,” Goldstein wrote in the filing.

The case, Smith v. City of Jackson, Miss. , will be argued at the court next fall.