The case comes from Mount Lemmon, a rural town in southeastern Arizona. John Guido and Dennis Rankin, the oldest firefighters oin the Mount Lemmon Fire District, filed an age discrimination suit after they were laid off in 2009. The Supreme Court wasn't deciding whether or not the firefighters had been discriminated against, but whether a small government employer could be sued for it because of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Maggi reports.
"The fire district, which at the time of the layoff had just 11 full-time employees, argued they were exempt from the law, as is the case with private-sector employers with fewer than 20 workers," Maggi reports. "But Guido and Rankin, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the law covers any public employer."
The court said public employers of all sizes were subject to the law. "The fire district warns that applying the ADEA to small public entities risks curtailment of vital public services such as fire protection. Experience suggests otherwise," the court said.