Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents

RESPONDENT: Florida Board of Regents
LOCATION: Florida State University

DOCKET NO.: 98-791
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 528 US 62 (2000)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1999
DECIDED: Jan 11, 2000

Barbara D. Underwood - Argued for the United States, as petitioner in No. 98-796, and respondent in support of petitioners in No. 98-791
Jeremiah A. Collins - Argued the cause for petitioners in No. 98-791 (Kimel, et al.), and respondents under the Court's Rule 12.6 in support of petitioner in No. 98-796
Jeffrey S. Sutton - Argued the cause for state respondents in both cases

Facts of the case

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) makes it unlawful for a private employer "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual...because of such individual's age." In 1974, Congress extended the ADEA's substantive requirements to the states. First, in 1994, employees of the University of Montevallo filed suit against the university, a branch of the State of Alabama, alleging that the university had discriminated against them on the basis of their age. The federal District Court dismissed the case based on the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. The court determined that, although the ADEA shows Congress' intent to abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity, Congress did not enact or extend the ADEA under its Fourteenth Amendment enforcement powers. The court, therefore, held that the ADEA did not abrogate the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. Second, in 1995, a group of faculty and librarians of Florida State University filed suit against the Board of Regents, alleging that the university's fiscal actions had violated the ADEA because the actions had a disparate impact on the pay of older employees. When the Florida Board of Regents moved to dismiss the suit on Eleventh Amendment grounds, the District Court denied the motion, holding that Congress expressed its intent to abrogate state Eleventh Amendment immunity in the ADEA, and that the ADEA is a proper exercise of congressional authority under the Fourteenth Amendment. Likewise, in 1996, a third case, involving an employee of the Florida Department of Corrections, was similarly decided. The Court of Appeals, in deciding all three cases, held that the ADEA does not abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity.


Does the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 abrogate the states' Eleventh Amendment immunity?

Media for Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1999 in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 11, 2000 in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 98-791, Kimel against Florida Board of Regents and a companion case will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

These cases come to us on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In 1967, Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Act makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual on the basis of age.

Although, the Act originally applied only to private employers, in 1974, Congress extended the Act to state and local government employers.

In these cases, before the Court, three sets of plaintiffs, employees of the state filed suit under the act in Federal Court seeking money damages from their state employers based on alleged discrimination on the basis of age.

In each case the state moved to dismiss the suit on the basis of its Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in Federal Court.

In one case the District Court granted the motion to dismiss, but in the remaining cases the District Court denied the motions.

Appeals in all three cases were consolidated before the Court of Appeals and in a divided opinion the Eleventh Circuit held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not abrogate the State’s Eleventh Amendment immunity.

In an opinion filed with the Court today, we affirm that judgment.

We hold that Congress did clearly state its intention to abrogate the State’s Sovereign Immunity.

The Act states that its requirement shall be enforced not only through its own remedial provisions but also through certain provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and one of those provisions that Congress incorporated into that ADEA authorizes employees to bring law suits for money damages against state governments and both Federal and State Court.

Together, we think those provisions do sufficiently indicate Congress’ intent to abrogate the State’s Eleventh Amendment immunity.

Nevertheless, we conclude that in stripping the states of their Sovereign Immunity, Congress succeeded its constitutional authority.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is not appropriate legislation under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

First, the Act imposes burdens on State and local governments that are disproportionate to any unconstitutional conduct that conceivably could be targeted by the Act.

Because age is not a suspect classification under the Equal Protection Clause, states may take action on the basis of age without offending the Fourteenth Amendment so long as the classification is rationally related to a legitimate state interest.

The rationality mandated by the Equal Protection Clause does not require states to match age distinctions and the legitimate interest they serve with razorlike precision.

Rather states may validly rely on age as a proxy for individuals, abilities or characteristics.

Judged against the standards it is clear that the ADEA’s broad prohibition on the use of age is disproportionate to any supposed remedial objective.

Second, our examination of the Act's legislative record reveals that Congress had virtually no reason to believe that State and local governments were unconstitutionally discriminating against their employees on the basis of age.

Congress never identified any pattern of age discrimination by the states much less any discrimination at all that rose to the level of a constitutional violation.

That failure to uncover any significant pattern of unconstitutional discrimination, confirms that Congress had no reason to believe that broad prophylactic legislation was necessary.

In light of the Act's indiscriminant scope and the lack of evidence of wide spread and unconstitutional age discrimination by the states, we hold that the ADEA is not a valid exercise of Congress’ Section 5 power.

The Act's purported abrogation of the State Sovereign Immunity is accordingly invalid.

Justice Stevens has filed an opinion dissenting in part and concurring in part in which Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer have joined; Justice Thomas has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part in which Justice Kennedy joins.