The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether state and local public employees may file age-bias lawsuits on constitutional grounds.
Illinois officials told the high court an appeals ruling allowing the suits using the Constitution's equal protection clause and federal civil rights law conflicts with rulings from other appeals courts in the country, and allows employees to avoid filing under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The case was brought by Harvey Levin, who was employed as an assistant Illinois attorney general from September 2000 to his termination, along with 11 other attorneys, in May 2006. Levin was 55 at the time, and he was replaced by a woman in her 30s.
A federal judge ruled that Levin's claim under civil rights law was not precluded by the provisions in ADEA. When a federal appeals court ruled that Levin's civil rights constitutional claim survived, Illinois officials asked the Supreme Court for review, which was granted in a one-line order Monday.
In asking for review, Illinois officials said if the appeals court ruling is left in place in the Seventh U.S. Circuit, it would gut the ADEA's mandate to avoid litigation and seek informal conciliation, if possible. Officials said it would allow approximately 1 million state and local employees in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin -- the states in the Seventh Circuit -- to bypass the ADEA.
Argument in the case should be heard by the justices next term.
The case does not deal with federal public employees, but eventually could affect them.