United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Bucklo United States District Judge
action, plaintiff Anthony Snyder, a paramedic with the
Chicago Fire Department (“CFD”), complains that
the City of Chicago violated the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 (“ADEA”)
when it failed to offer him the opportunity for
“cross-over training” to become a
firefighter/paramedic based on his age. Before me is the
City's motion for summary judgment, which I grant for the
reasons that follow.
around March 7, 2006, the City issued a
“Firefighter/EMT Examination Announcement”
stating that a written examination would be administered on
May 25 and 26, 2006, as “the first step in the Chicago
Firefighter/EMT examination process.” Pl.'s L.R.
56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt., Exh. 8 (the “2006 Exam
Announcement”). The 2006 Exam Announcement included the
statement, “NOTE: Pursuant to the Municipal Code of
Chicago 2-152-410, an applicant above the age of 38 may not
be appointed.” The referenced section of the Municipal
No person above the age of 38 may receive initial appointment
as a probationary career service firefighter or
firefighter/EMT with the fire department and no person above
the age of 40 may receive initial appointment as a
probationary career service police officer with the police
department. Provided, however, that these age restrictions
shall not apply to initial appointment as a probationary
career service police officer or firefighter or
firefighter/EMT from employment lists in existence on the
date of passage of this ordinance.
M.C.C. § 2-152-410(e).
was hired as a paramedic in CFD's Division of Emergency
Services on April 3, 2006, when he was thirty-two years old.
Shortly thereafter, he took and passed the written
examination announced in the 2006 Exam Announcement and was
placed on the firefighter “eligibility list” for
training at the fire academy. Placement order on the
eligibility list is assigned randomly based on the
candidates' social security numbers. Aff. of Charles
Stewart, III, Def.'s L.R. 56.1(A)(3) Stmt., Exh. C at
¶ 11. In addition, pursuant to the parties'
Collective Bargaining Agreement, ten percent of each
firefighter candidate class is reserved for
“cross-overs, ” i.e., individuals who, like
plaintiff, are paramedics already employed by the City, and
who are selected for firefighter training based on seniority.
randomly assigned number on the eligibility list was 7736,
which he acknowledges would have put him “out of the
running” for firefighter training were it not for his
placement on the cross-over eligibility list. Pl.'s L.R.
56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt., Exh. 9; Opp. at 2-3. Plaintiff further
acknowledges that the first firefighter training class in
which he would have been eligible to participate based on his
position on the cross-over eligibility list began on March
14, 2014. Def.'s L.R. 56.1(a)(3) Stmt., ¶ 25;
Stewart Aff., ¶ 12. By that time, however, plaintiff was
forty years old-two years over the age limit established in
§ 2-152-410(e). Accordingly, the City did not invite him
to participate in firefighter training.
filed timely a charge of discrimination with the Illinois
Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission based on the City's failure to
afford him the opportunity to join the training class that
began on March 14, 2014. On September 30, 2014, the IDHR
dismissed the charge for lack of substantial evidence.
Pl.'s L.R. 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. Exh. 13. This lawsuit
ADEA generally protects workers forty and over from age-based
discrimination in employment. Its protection of older workers
is not limitless, however. When the statute was enacted in
1967, it did not apply to state and local government
employees. Minch v. City of Chicago, 363 F.3d 615,
618 (7th Cir. 2004). Indeed, as the Seventh Circuit explained
in Minch, “[h]istorically, Chicago, like many
other state and local governments, has placed age limits on
the employment of its police and firefighting
personnel.” Id. After Congress amended the
ADEA in 1974 to bring state and local government employees
within its scope, these age limits became vulnerable to
challenge, prompting Chicago's City Council to modify
them to align with the statute. Id.
response to concerns raised by state and local governments,
however, Congress again amended the ADEA to exempt state and
local rules establishing hiring and retirement age limits for
police officers and firefighters. Id. at 618-19.
Since 1996, the ADEA has expressly authorized such limits
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 623(j). That section provides
that it is not unlawful for a state or its political
subdivisions “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge
any individual because of such individual's age if such
action is taken...pursuant to a bona fide hiring or
retirement plan that is not a subterfuge to evade the
purposes of this chapter.” 29 U.S.C. §
2000, the Chicago City Council exercised its authority under
the exemption and enacted Municipal Code § 2-152-410.
363 F.3d at 617. The Seventh Circuit examined the ordinance
in Minch and considered under what circumstances
mandatory age limits for public safety personnel might
constitute “a subterfuge to evade the purposes of the
ADEA.” 363 F.3d at 617. It concluded that “[w]hat
is necessary to establish subterfuge is proof that the
employer is using the exemption as a way to evade another
substantive provision of the act.” Id. at 629.
For example, the court explained, a plaintiff would have a
valid subterfuge claim if he or she could show that a state
or city government imposed age limits on public safety
personnel “in order to retaliate against one or more
employees for protesting practices made illegal by the ADEA,
” or could show that a local government
“reduc[ed] the wages of all workers while substantially
increasing the benefits provided to younger workers” as
a means of effectuating wage discrimination against older
workers. Id. at 630. But where age maximums are used
precisely to establish a cap on the age at which police
officers or ...