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Problem-Solving ApplicationFirefighters, 46 and 54, Sue for Age...

 

Problem-Solving Application—Firefighters, 46 and 54, Sue for Age Discrimination

 

The Mount Lemmon fire district in Arizona fired two firefighters, aged 46 and 54, who filed an age discrimination lawsuit in response. This activity is important because the legal constraints surrounding age discrimination as well as the OB issues that might lead to such a situation arising in the first place are both essential for managers to understand.

 

The goal of this activity is for you to consider what might lead to such a climate within an organization and what can be done to remedy it.

 

Read about the age discrimination lawsuit filed by Guido and Rankin against the Mount Lemmon fire district. Then, using the three-step problem-solving approach, answer the questions that follow.

 

Firefighters John Guido and Dennis Rankin were only 46 and 54, respectively, when they were fired by the Mount Lemmon fire district, a department of the state of Arizona. Each had put in nine years of employment. The fire district claimed the two were fired for budget reasons, and because they had not volunteered for wildland duty. But one of the people chosen to replace them had also not served on any wildland fire-fighting assignments for the last two years.

 

Guido and Rankin then filed an age discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charging they had been let go simply because they were the two oldest full-time members of the department. The EEOC agreed there was "reasonable cause" for their claim that in dismissing them Mount Lemmon had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

 

A federal trial judge sided with the fire district's attorneys, who argued that federal antidiscrimination law applied only to private organizations with at least 20 employees. Appealing the ruling, Guido and Rankin, who had meanwhile found other employment, watched as their case finally made its way to the US Supreme Court several years later. In its 8-0 ruling in late 2018 (newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not participate), the Supreme Court decided in favor of the two firefighters.

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's opinion in the case said Mount Lemmon's reading of the law was inconsistent with precedent and with EEOC rulings and that, while the ADEA does not in fact apply to private companies with fewer than 20 employees, it sets no size limit on public employers, including local government entities like the Mount Lemmon fire department. Thus, these entities are required to obey the Age Discrimination Act regardless of size. With that ruling, Guido and Rankin were entitled to sue their former employer for damages. While the law does not guarantee they will win their case, they plan to ask for their lost past and future wages.1

 

Apply the 3-Step Problem-Solving Approach

  • Step 1: Identify the problem in this case.
  • Step 2: Identify the OB concepts or theories that may be causing the problem. For example, are stereotypes, diversity climate, or frameworks for managing diversity causes of the problem?
  • Step 3: Recommend what you would do to correct the situation. Think both short term and long term.

 

Footnotes

C. Garden, Opinion Analysis: Federal Age-Discrimination Law Applies to All Public Employees, SCOTUS Blog, November 6, 2018, https://www.scotusblog.com/2018/11/opinion-analysisfederal-age-discrimination-law-applies-to-all-public-employees/; H. Fischer, "US Supreme Court Says Mount Lemmon Fire District Can Be Sued for Age Discrimination," Tuscon.com, November 6, 2018, https://tucson.com/news/local/us-supreme-court-saysmount-lemmon-fire-district-can-be/article_9ad583e2-0ccd-5bf6- a51b-d9d71dfc6804.html; and "Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido," Oyez, March 1, 2019, www.oyez.org/cases/2018/17-587.

 

Which of the following might be part of a "business case" in favor of the Mount Lemmon fire district hiring employees with a broader range of ages?

Multiple Choice

  • Hiring older firefighters is "fairer."
  • Hiring older firefighters is good for the district's public image.
  • Hiring older firefighters reduces the chances of lawsuits.
  • Hiring older firefighters will make the district's leadership happy.
  • Firefighters who are older might also have more valuable experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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