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Federal Employees Abroad Entitled to Protections of ADEA

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 08, 2012 1:08 PM

Age discrimination laws apply to federal employees, even if the employees are stationed abroad.

That's what the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The case before the court involved a forced retirement and the protections normally afforded to federal employees. The real issue arose when a federal employee was treated in a manner consistent with the laws of the country where he was stationed.

John R. Miller was an employee at the U.S. embassy in Paris. Due to French retirement laws, he was forced to retire in 2007 at age 65. Note that Miller was a U.S. citizen employed by a U.S. federal agency.

He brought suit, alleging that the forced retirement was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The feds raised the Basic Authorities Act in their defense. The district court determined that the Basic Authorities Act exempted Miller from the protections of the ADEA.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the district court.

The reading of the Basic Authorities Act was vague, at best. And the D.C. Circuit quickly decided that the Chevron doctrine didn't apply. As such, the court turned to a facts-and-circumstances reading to determine the best interpretation of the Act.

The State Department's arguments focused largely on Congressional intent in promoting the hiring of American citizens. If there were no exemption, they argued, then why not just hire foreign workers that were not subject to the ADEA?

But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was unmoved by this argument. After all, the interest in protecting American workers against discrimination trumped the interest in not hiring foreign citizens.

This case affects not only age discrimination claims but discrimination claims across the board. The implications of this case could be far reaching and could impact the rights of numerous Department of State workers.

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