Federal Age Discrimination Claim Against Georgia Governmental Entity Dismissed for Lack of Jurisdiction

Just as in other types of civil cases, an Atlanta age discrimination lawsuit is subject to dismissal if the court in which it is filed lacks subject matter jurisdiction. When a court lacks this type of jurisdiction, it does not have the authority to render a binding decision in the case, and, thus, it must dismiss any claims over which it has no jurisdiction.

Usually, matters of jurisdiction are dealt with fairly early in the litigation process. This is typically done through a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Rule 12(b)(6).

Facts of the Case

In a recent age discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff was a 72-year-old man who applied for work as a facilities maintenance/construction manager with the defendant governmental agency in 2018. The defendant did not extend an offer of employment to the plaintiff, despite him having more than 40 years of experience in construction project management. Rather, the defendant chose to hire a younger, less-experienced candidate for the job. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the defendant had unlawfully discriminated against him in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that the plaintiff’s complaint against it was barred by the immunity of the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Decision of the Court

The United States District Court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against it. Although the ADEA made it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against those who were 40 years old or older, the act originally applied only to private employers. Congress extended application of the act’s substantive requirements to the states in 1974, but the court noted that this did not automatically mean that all state and federal agencies were subject to its provisions. Rather, under the Eleventh Amendment, states (and state agencies such as the defendant) were insulated from lawsuits filed in federal court except in situations in which the state had consented to be sued or had waived its immunity.

Insomuch as the plaintiff did not contest that the defendant was a state agency protected under the Eleventh Amendment, nor did he argue that the State of Georgia had waived its immunity to his ADEA claim, the district court found that the critical question was whether the United States Congress had abrogated states’ rights to immunity as to ADEA claims. Citing prior caselaw on the issue by the United States Supreme Court, the district court answered the question in the negative, concluding that the defendant was immune from the plaintiff’s claim and thus the federal district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. In so holding, the court pointed out that the plaintiff was not necessarily left without a remedy, as he might be able to seek relief based on a state (rather than federal) age discrimination statute, presumably in a separation cause of action filed in state court.

Employment Law Attorneys in Atlanta

If you have been refused employment, fired, or denied a promotion and believe that you were passed over because of your age, gender, race, or disability, you may be wondering whether  you should consider filing an employment discrimination suit against the party that discriminated against you. The law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert regularly represents individuals in employment discrimination cases against employers, potential employers, and former employers. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

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