Third Circuit Says No Joint ADEA and Section 1983 Age Discrimination Claims

On June 27, 2014, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals released its opinion in Hildebrand v. Allegheny County and Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office, ordering that the Western District’s ruling dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination case was to be affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Anthony Hildebrand worked as a detective for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office prior to his termination on February 18, 2011. He filled out an intake questionnaire with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that he had been terminated because of his age, on December 1, 2011, and a “Charge of Discrimination” on January 11, 2012. He was issued a right-to-sue letter on May 7, 2012, and filed suit two months later.

Defendants brought a 12(b)(6) motion, on the basis that Hildebrand could not bring a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Section §1983, that Hildebrand’s charge of discrimination was not timely, and that he had not sufficiently pled facts to show that he had exhausted all administrative remedies prior to filing the ADEA violation claim in court.

The district court found in Defendants’ favor for all three arguments and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. Hildebrand subsequently filed an appeal.

The first issue the court addressed regarded whether or not Hildebrand could file both an ADEA and a §1983 claim for age discrimination. The court analyzed simultaneous use of §1983 and other remedies to decide this issue of first impression. The Court noted that §1983 does not grant substantive rights, but rather provides a method for vindicating federal rights granted elsewhere. The Court also stated that use of §1983 is inappropriate where Congress has provided another remedy, noting that looking at Congressional intent is a crucial part of this analysis.

The Court provided some guidance as to how to determine whether a §1983 claim would be permitted to be brought simultaneously with a statutory claim. Statutes containing elaborate and carefully tailored enforcement schemes are likely to contain the sole private cause of action, as are statutes that contain an administrative exhaustion component and a notice provision. In discussing a prior case decided by the United States Supreme Court allowing a Title IX claim and a §1983 claim to proceed, the Circuit Court found it particularly notable that Title IX does not contain an express private right of action. Due to this analysis and the numerous other Circuit courts with decisions holding the same, the Third Circuit found that the ADEA precludes a §1983 action.

Regarding the timeliness of the EEOC charge, the Court found that although the Charge of Discrimination was filed later than 300 days after the discriminatory act, the Intake Questionnaire,  which included a request that a charge be filed and for the EEOC to investigate, which sufficient to be considered a charge and was filed timely.

Lastly, the court found that a general allegation that all conditions precedent were satisfied was sufficient, as stated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(c).

Michael Kraemer is a partner with Kraemer, Manes & Associates, a law firm headquartered in Pittsburgh, serving all of Pennsylvania, with attorneys focusing on business law, employment law, litigation, personal injury, and civil issues. For more information please visit www.lawkm.com.

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