Gómez-Pérez v. Potter

PETITIONER: Myrna Gomez-Perez
RESPONDENT: John E. Potter, Postmaster General
LOCATION: Earthquake Park

DOCKET NO.: 06-1321
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 553 US 474 (2008)
GRANTED: Sep 25, 2007
ARGUED: Feb 19, 2008
DECIDED: May 27, 2008

ADVOCATES:
Gregory G. Garre - on behalf of the Respondent
Joseph R. Guerra -

Facts of the case

Myrna Gómez-Pérez worked as a clerk for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Puerto Rico. Gómez alleged that she was subject to retaliatory treatment after filing an age discrimination complaint against her supervisors under section 15 of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). A federal district court granted summary judgment to the USPS on the ground that the United States had not waived sovereign immunity as to retaliation claims under the ADEA.

Gómez appealed to the United States Court of Appeals in the First Circuit. It held that the USPS and Potter have waived sovereign immunity with respect to ADEA suits, but that Section 15 of the ADEA does not provide a cause of action for retaliation by federal employers.

Question

Does the ADEA prohibit retaliation against federal employees?

Media for Gómez-Pérez v. Potter

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 19, 2008 in Gómez-Pérez v. Potter

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 27, 2008 in Gómez-Pérez v. Potter

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

This case comes to us on writ of certiorari to the First Circuit.

Petitioner Myrna Gomez-Perez was a window distribution clerk for the United States Postal Service in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

In 2002, when she was 45 years of age, she requested and was granted a transfer to another branch.

When she later requested a transfer back to her original position, her request was denied.

After filing an unsuccessful grievance with her union, petitioner filed an equal opportunity complaint with the postal service alleging that the denial of the transfer was the product of age discrimination.

According to petitioner, she was thereafter subjected to various forms of retaliation, including having her job hours reduced. Petitioner responded by filing this suit claiming that the postal service had violated the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by retaliating against her for filing an equal opportunity age discrimination complaint.

The federal-sector provision states that "all personnel actions affecting employees or applicants for employment who are at least 40 years of age shall be made free from discrimination based on age.

The First Circuit held that the prohibition of discrimination based on age does not cover retaliation for filing an age discrimination complaint and affirmed the dismissal of petitioner's complaint.

We granted certiorari and now reverse.

In interpreting the phrase discrimination based on age, we are guided by our prior decisions in Sullivan versus Little Hunting Park and Jackson versus Birmingham Board of Education.

In Sullivan, we interpreted 42 U.S.C. Section 1982 which prohibits discrimination based on race and property transactions and we found that Section 1982 prohibits retaliation.

More recently, in Jackson, we interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. Section 1681 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs, receiving federal financial assistance.

Relying on Sullivan, we held that this is ban on discrimination on the basis of sex, likewise prohibits retaliation.

Following the reasoning of Sullivan and Jackson, we interpret the ADEA's federal-sector provisions, prohibition of discrimination based on age as likewise proscribing retaliation.

The statutory language at issue here is not materially different from the language that we construed in Jackson and it's the functional equivalent of the statutory language in Sullivan.

Moreover, the statutory context is the same in all three cases, remedial provisions aimed at prohibiting discrimination.

For this reason and others setout in an opinion filed today with the clerk, we reverse the decision of the First Circuit.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justices Scalia and Thomas have joined in part.

Justice Thomas has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Scalia has joined.