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Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia

Significance

Although not the best means available for the purpose of protecting the public, the U.S. Supreme Court found that mandatory retirement of police officers at age 50 was a rational course of action for the state of Massachusetts. The Court also found that old workers were not a discrete and insular group and that the right of governmental employment was, by itself, not fundamental. Therefore, if the reason for a retirement provision was justified by a legitimate state interest, such as public safety, age discrimination was justified.

Old people are subject to age discrimination in every society, especially when employers sometimes believe that age is a viable criteria to measure an ability to work. Employers often perceive older workers as being less productive than younger ones, and discriminate against them when hiring new workers or retiring old workers. To protect the rights of elder workers, Congress enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1967. This act was aimed at shielding senior workers from discrimination in hiring, discharging, compensation, and conditions of employment. Moreover, one of its more salient purposes was to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment. One clause of this act allowed age discrimination in hiring or discharging if the employer could prove that youth was an occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operations of the particular business. This clause was applicable when a position involved physically burdensome activity or public safety. Though Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia did not invoke the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it involved a position of employment, police officer, which required strenuous physical activity and demanded consideration be given to public safety. In this case the U.S. Supreme Court in fact found that age discrimination should receive less judicial scrutiny than discrimination based on race or sex because aging objectively involved a decrease of physical and mental abilities.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia - Significance, Rationality Of Mandatory Retirement, Not The Best Means . . . But Rational Means, Impact