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Burton v. Exam Center Industrial (2000)

09 January 2000 Published in Resolved Cases

Age Discrimination - For the first time in the ACLU of Utah’s history, the Utah Supreme Court requested that our organization file an amicus curiae brief in a case before the Court. At issue in the case was whether Utah employers with fewer than fifteen employees are free to discriminate against their employees on the basis of age. Like its federal counterpart, the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act exempts businesses that employ fewer than fifteen people from its regulatory scheme.

In June 1999, we filed a brief in which we argued that the strong public policy of the State of Utah prohibits age discrimination in employment, regardless of the size of the employer, and we therefore urged the court to recognize an age discrimination claim against small employers based on that strong public policy. In this way, all employees, regardless of the size of company they work for, would be protected from invidious discrimination and judged solely by their willingness and ability to do their jobs.

Unfortunately, in January 2000, the Utah Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that small employers are free to discriminate on the basis of age until and unless the Utah State Legislature acts to extend statutory protections to employees of small firms. In their vigorous dissent, Justices Durham and now retired Justice Stewart agreed with our reasoning and urged that state policy not include age discrimination by small employers.