The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their age. How it applies to public employers is a bit complex, so let’s break it down.

The ADEA defines employer as a person “engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 20 or more employees . . .” It includes any State or political subdivision of a State.  Courts across the country have disagreed about whether the definition included State employers with fewer than 20 employees, like small towns and villages for example. For public employers in New York, the question was particularly unclear as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals never had ruled.

Earlier this month, however, the Supreme Court of the United States cleared things up by concluding that the ADEA governs all State employers, including counties, cities, and towns, regardless of their number of employees. That means even tiny village halls with only a handful of employees must abide by the law.

For private employers, it remains clear that the ADEA governs only companies with 20 or more employees.

State law often applies too, especially in New York, and it can have different triggers. If you’re an employer looking for assistance navigating your legal risks and obligations, contact us.

The attorneys at The Coppola Firm are happy to help.