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Smith v. City of Jackson

Supreme Court of the United States

November 3, 2004, Argued ; March 30, 2005, Decided

No. 03-1160

Opinion

 [*230]  [**1539]   Justice Stevens announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Part III, in which Justice Souter, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] LEdHN[2A][] [2A] Petitioners, police and public safety officers employed by the city of Jackson, Mississippi (hereinafter City), contend that salary increases received in 1999 violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) because they were less generous to officers over the age of 40 than to younger officers. Their suit raises the [****6]  question whether the "disparate-impact" theory of recovery announced in  Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158, 91 S. Ct. 849 (1971), for cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is cognizable under the ADEA. Despite the age of the ADEA, it is a question that we have not yet addressed. See  [***416]   Hazen  [*231]  Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604, 610, 123 L. Ed. 2d 338, 113 S. Ct. 1701 (1993);  Markham v. Geller, 451 U.S. 945, 68 L. Ed. 2d 332, 101 S. Ct. 2028 (1981) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting from denial of certiorari).

On October 1, 1998, the City adopted a pay plan granting raises to all City employees. The stated purpose of the plan was to "attract and retain qualified people, provide incentive for performance, maintain competitiveness with other public sector agencies and ensure equitable compensation to all employees regardless of age, sex, race and/or disability." 1 On May 1, 1999, a revision of the plan, which was motivated, at least in part, by the City's desire to bring the starting salaries of police officers up to the regional average, granted raises to all police officers and police dispatchers. Those who had less than five years of tenure received proportionately greater raises when [****7]  compared to their former pay than those with more seniority. Although some officers over the age of 40 had less than five years of service, most of the older officers had more.

Petitioners are a group of older officers who filed suit under the ADEA claiming both that the City deliberately discriminated against them because of their age (the "disparate-treatment" claim) and that they were "adversely affected" by the plan because of their age (the "disparate-impact" claim). The District Court granted summary judgment to the City on both [**1540]  claims. The Court of Appeals held that the ruling on the former claim was premature because petitioners were entitled to further discovery on the issue of intent, but it affirmed the dismissal of the disparate-impact claim.  351 F.3d 183 (CA5 2003). Over one judge's dissent, the majority concluded that disparate-impact claims are categorically unavailable under the ADEA. Both the majority and the dissent assumed that the facts alleged by petitioners would [****8]  entitle them to relief under the reasoning of Griggs.

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544 U.S. 228 *; 125 S. Ct. 1536 **; 161 L. Ed. 2d 410 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 2931 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4251; 95 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 641; 86 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P41,882; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 211

AZEL P. SMITH, et al., Petitioners v. CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, et al.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

 Smith v. City of Jackson, 351 F.3d 183, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 23125 (5th Cir. Miss., 2003)

Disposition: Affirmed.

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Labor & Employment Law, Age Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, General Overview, Retaliation, Statutory Application, Family & Medical Leave Act, Discrimination, Defenses, Reasonable Factors, Evidence, Remedies, Title VII Discrimination, Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Burdens of Proof, Burden Shifting, Business & Corporate Compliance, Disparate Treatment, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Employment Practices, Selection Procedures, Neutral Factors, Disparate Impact, Amendments, ADEA Enforcement, Scope & Definitions, Discriminatory Employment Practices, Disparate Compensation, Statistical Evidence