This U.S. Supreme Court case raised the issue of whether the "sovereign immunity" clause of the Eleventh Amendment prohibits public employees, including faculty members, from suing public institutions, including colleges and universities, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) for damages. The Supreme Court case consolidated three cases, two of which involved professors. In Kimel v. State of Florida Board of Regents, a chemistry professor, along with 35 other current and former faculty members and librarians from different Florida higher education institutions, claimed that the universities had discriminated against them based on age. In MacPherson v. University of Montevallo, two associate professors alleged that the university discriminated against them and other older faculty members by treating their younger colleagues more favorably in terms of salaries and promotions. In July 1999 AAUP joined a brief authored by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which asserted that states are not immune from such suits for damages. AAUP was concerned that holding public entities, such as state universities, immune from the ADEA would impair the ability of professors to protect themselves from age discrimination in the workplace.
Status: In January 2000 the Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that public employees, such as public university professors, may not sue public institutions, including colleges and universities, under the ADEA for damages. In so ruling, the Court noted that its decision "does not signal the end of the line for employees who find themselves subject to age discrimination at the hands of their state employers. . . . State employees are protected by state age discrimination statutes, and may recover money damages from their state employers, in almost every State of the Union." This decision is limited to ADEA claims only, and does not affect race and gender discrimination claims.