EEOC v. Wyoming
460 U.S. 226 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226 (1983)

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wyoming

No. 81-554

Argued October 5, 1982

Decided March 2, 1983

460 U.S. 226

Syllabus

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employee or potential employee between the ages of 40 and 70 on the basis of age, except

"where age is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business. or where the differentiation is based on reasonable factors other than age."

In 1974, the definition of "employer" under § 11(b) of the Act was extended to include state and local governments. After a supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was involuntarily retired at age 55 pursuant to a Wyoming statute, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging violation of the Act. The Commission ultimately filed suit in Federal District Court against appellees, the State and various state officials, seeking relief on behalf of the supervisor and others similarly situated. The District Court dismissed the suit, holding that, insofar as the Act regulated Wyoming's employment relationship with its game wardens and other law enforcement officials, it violated the doctrine of Tenth Amendment immunity articulated in National League of Cities v. Usery,426 U. S. 833, which struck down Congress' attempt to extend the wage and hour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act to state and local governments.

Held: The extension of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to cover state and local governments is a valid exercise of Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause, both on its face and as applied in this case, and is not precluded by virtue of external constraints imposed on Congress' commerce powers by the Tenth Amendment. Pp. 460 U. S. 235-244.

(a) The purpose of the doctrine of Tenth Amendment immunity articulated in National League of Cities, supra, is to protect States from federal intrusions that might threaten their "separate and independent existence." A claim that congressional commerce power legislation is invalid can succeed only if (1) the challenged statute regulates the States as States, (2) the federal regulation addresses matters that are indisputably attributes of state sovereignty, and (3) the States' compliance with the federal law would "directly impair their ability to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions.'" Hodel v. Virginia Surface Mining Reclamation Assn.,452 U. S. 264, 452 U. S. 287-288.

Page 460 U. S. 227

The first requirement is met in this case, but even assuming, arguendo, that the second requirement is met, the Act does not "directly impair" the State's ability to "structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions." Pp. 460 U. S. 236-239.

(b) In this case, the degree of federal intrusion on the States' ability to structure their integral operations is not sufficient to override Congress' choice to extend its regulatory authority to the States. Appellees claim no substantial stake in their retirement policy other than assuring the physical preparedness of Wyoming game wardens to perform their duties. The Act does not require the State to abandon those goals, or the public policy decisions underlying them. Under the Act, the State may assess the fitness of its game wardens on an individualized basis, and may dismiss those wardens whom it reasonably finds to be unfit. Moreover, appellees remain free under the Act to continue to do precisely what they are doing now, if they can demonstrate that age is a "bona fide occupational qualification" for the job of game warden. And nothing in the nature of the Act suggests that it will have substantial and unintended consequential effects on state decisionmaking in other areas, such as the allocation of state financial resources or the pursuit of broad social and economic policies. National League of Cities, supra, distinguished. Pp. 460 U. S. 239-242.

514 F.Supp. 595, reversed and remanded.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 460 U. S. 244. BURGER, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 460 U. S. 251. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 460 U. S. 265.

Page 460 U. S. 228

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