To determine whether a federal statute properly subjects States to suits by individuals, the court applies a simple but stringent test: Congress may abrogate the States' constitutionally secured immunity from suit in federal court only by making its intention unmistakably clear in the language of the statute. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq., satisfies that test.
Petitioner employees filed separate suits under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq., alleging that respondent state employers discriminated against petitioners on the basis of age. Federal district courts made determinations as to respondents' motions to dismiss on the basis of U.S. Const. amend. XI immunity. The federal appellate court consolidated the appeals from the district courts and ruled in favor of respondents.
Does state immunity apply to suits filed by employees against their state employers for age discrimination?
The court affirmed the judgment. The court determined that the ADEA contained a clear statement of Congress' intent to abrogate the States' immunity. However, in light of the indiscriminate scope of the ADEA's substantive requirements, and the lack of evidence of widespread and unconstitutional age discrimination by the States, the ADEA was not a valid exercise of Congress' power under U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 5. The ADEA's purported abrogation of the States' sovereign immunity was accordingly invalid.