Iowa Employers Need to Be Mindful of the Breadth of Iowa's Prohibition Against Age Discrimination
Posted on 01/31/2020 at 01:03 PM by Russell Samson
The headline of the article reads, “Cincinnati Reds Call Foul On Law Student's Age Bias Suit.” It seems that a former minor league baseball player, who is now a law student, has sued The Cincinnati Reds LLC in federal district court in North Carolina. In 2017, and again in 2018, and yet again in 2019, plaintiff Garrison Lassiter attempted to attend tryouts that the Reds were holding for 16 to 22-year-old amateur baseball players. He was 27, 28, and 29 on each of the occasions; he alleges that the Cincinnati Reds scouts turned him away each time because of his age. The crux of Lassiter’s federal court lawsuit was that the professional baseball organization was guilty of “age preferring.” Lassiter did not identify any statutory or other legal basis for his claim in either the complaint or in the Civil Cover Sheet which accompanied the filing.
The Cincinnati baseball club filed a motion to dismiss the litigation. The club began by noting the absence of any identified legal basis for asserting that “age preferring” 16 to 22-year-olds to the detriment of a 27, 28, 29 or 30-year old is legally wrong. Citing 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1), and 29 USC § 631(a), the baseball club noted that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, “prohibits employers from refusing to hire, discharging, or otherwise discriminating against any person who is at least 40 years of age ‘because of’ the person's age.” It continued that because the ADEA standards are applied under public policy expressed in the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (that is, that the class protected includes those age 40 and above), the same result – i.e., no legally cognizable claim was stated – would follow under North Carolina’s laws.
The Cincinnati Reds LLC requested dismissal of the litigation with prejudice, asserting that no amendment of the complaint can overcome the fact that Lassiter was under 40 years of age when he was not permitted to participate in the Reds’ tryouts.
Iowa employers are reminded that the Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of, among others, “age.” Unlike the ADEA, the Iowa statute explains the state’s prohibition:
3. This section shall not prohibit discrimination on the basis of age if the person subject to the discrimination is under the age of eighteen years, unless that person is considered by law to be an adult.
As the Iowa Supreme Court observed more than forty years ago, “The Iowa Civil Rights Act applies across the board with respect to individuals of all ages.”
Absent some specific statutory authorization, an Iowa employer is well advised to not apply any “age” factors in any employment situation absent some clear mandate (like child labor laws) otherwise. Clearly, The Cincinnati Reds LLC should avoid conducting “youth” tryouts here in Iowa.
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