Sixth Circuit rejects age discrimination claim
Five retired police officers sued the City of Cleveland, arguing that their forced retirement was illegal age discrimination that violated the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The City adopted a mandatory retirement age of 65 for police and firemen in 1960. The policy allowed year-to-year exceptions at the discretion of the Chief of Fire or Police, subject to medical evaluation. The City never rejected an extension request prior to 2010, however with budget cuts it laid off 67 cops, demoted 28 others, and ended the age extension exceptions for all police.
After being forced to retire on their 65th birthday, the plaintiffs filed suit, starting with Joseph T. Sadie, pointing out that they were physically capable of managing their duties as evidenced by their prior service and the previous policy. They alleged the mandatory-retirement age was now being used as a subterfuge to evad the purpose of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The ADEA does contain an explicit exception for police and firemen, however.
Pointing out that the First, Second and Seventh Circuits have all rejected the officers' claim, the Sixth Circuit ruled that in simple terms, the statute expressly allows Cities and States to discriminate in this instance. It granted summary disposition to the City, finding the age-related mandatory retirement to be "rationally related to the legitimate purpose of addressing budget concerns."