The Constitutionality of Mandatory Retirement for Nonphysical Government Employment


The Supreme Court remains unresponsive to claims of discrimination based on age, despite its rejection of classifications based on race or gender. The Court’s reluctance to grapple with age discrimination is apparent in its treatment of cases brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as in the analytical framework it has used to judge age discrimination suits brought under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. Recently, the Court denied petitions for certiorari for three equal protection cases from two different Circuit Courts of Appeal: Gault v. Garrisons, Johnson v. Lefkowitz, and Palmer v. Ticcione. These cases offered an excellent opportunity for the Supreme Court to limit the effects of its much-criticized 1976 decision in Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia, and to recognize that age discrimination, particularly in the form of mandatory retirement laws, is no more constitutionally valid than is racial or sexual discrimination. Granting certiorari also would have allowed the Court to clarify its decision in Vance v. Bradley and its summary affirmance of Slate v. Noll. Though neither Bradley nor Slate considered the validity of mandatory retirement statutes generally, the decisions indicate that the Court is even less sympathetic towards those forced to retire than the Murgia opinion indicated.

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