EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADEA: SUITS AGAINST STATES
February 25, 2000
This is in response to your letter concerning your claims of age discrimination.
As you know, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces, among other statutes, the prohibitions against age discrimination of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (ADEA). Although those prohibitions apply to state governments, the United States Supreme Court has recently held that the states are immune from suits to enforce the ADEA against them in federal court. Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, 120 S. Ct. 631 (2000). As a result, individuals may no longer sue states, under the ADEA, to recover back pay or liquidated damages.
Individuals who are the victims of age discrimination will, however, still have remedies in state court if state -- rather than federal -- law prohibits age discrimination. Georgia law does bar employers from discriminating on the basis of age, see Ga. Code Ann. § 45-19-21 et seq., and you may wish to consult an attorney to evaluate your rights under that statute. It is also possible that federal courts will permit individuals to continue to bring ADEA suits against states for injunctive, albeit not monetary, relief. If your federal suit under the ADEA is currently pending, therefore -- and if the court finds in your favor on the question of whether you were subjected to age discrimination -- you may be able to request that your employer award you the promotions it denied on discriminatory grounds.
I hope that the above information is helpful to you.
Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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