At the beginning of its new term this month, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case Madigan v. Levin, which came from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The case involves the issue of whether an employee can sue an employer for age discrimination under the U.S. Constitution when the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was intended by Congress to be a remedy. Harvy Levin, age 61, worked as an attorney general for the state of Illinois. He and two older attorneys were terminated from their jobs and replaced by younger attorneys. In Levin’s case, the younger attorney was in her 30s. Levin sued his employer under the ADEA, and also under another federal law, claiming that his civil rights were violated.
Levin’s case was tossed out of court because Levin was not actually an employee in the usual sense, but a political appointee. Levin then argued that the Illinois attorney general’s office had violated his civil rights, only to be informed that he could not make that argument because only the ADEA was meant to address age-related discrimination claims. Levin appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which ultimately sided with him. The Seventh Circuit stated that even with the ADEA, an employer had to act according to the Constitution and that wronged employees should be able to sue for a Constitutional rights violation when the ADEA does not apply. The Seventh Circuit’s finding was at odds with the findings in other federal appeals court, which made it highly likely that the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear the case and settle the split.
Yet it turns out that the issue may not be resolved after all, because the Supreme Court Justices signaled that they thought that there were troubling procedural issues with the case, including whether the Seventh Circuit had jurisdiction to hear the case at all. The Seventh Circuit had apparently decided the outcome before the case went to trial. The Justices also wondered whether the issue even applied to Levin; since the ADEA did not apply to him anyway, it should not matter whether he chose to argue Constitutional remedies. Overall, during the oral arguments, there was very little discussion of the merits of the case. The Justices hinted that they might dismiss it to be retried in the lower courts.
If the Supreme Court decides not to rule on the merits, the issue of whether a person is blocked from asserting Constitutional rights when a statute addresses their needs will remain unaddressed, for now. However, it will certainly be resolved sooner or later. It is difficult to imagine that an individual cannot assert Constitutional rights violations in addition to statutory claims, but that is for the Supreme Court to decide. In the meantime, if you suffer from age discrimination in the workplace, contact an Indiana employment discrimination attorney to learn about your options.
Charles W. Miller & Associates is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.