A federal judge in Washington today dismissed a State Department foreign services officer’s age discrimination suit against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that Elizabeth Colton has failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Colton, 65, sued Clinton in her official capacity in September 2009, alleging that she had been passed over for a prestigious foreign post when she was 63 because of her age. Colton contended that the offer of a position as chief of the political and economic section at the U.S. embassy in Algiers was revoked when her supervisors realized that the two-year post would require her to work past the agency’s mandatory retirement age of 65.
In today’s opinion, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia determined that Colton had failed to notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of her intent to file a suit alleging retaliation and discriminatory failure to promote within the appropriate time period. Leon determined that U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit precedent holds that the State Department’s mandatory retirement policy is “a valid exception to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”
Leon also found that Colton’s claim that the Supreme Court’s 1979 decision in Vance v. Bradley, which held that the retirement provision of the Foreign Services Act was rationally related to a legitimate state interest, shouldn’t apply because “conditions have changed” was a legally insufficient basis for her challenge.
Leon writes, “Colton is woefully misguided to imply that this court can and should disregard Supreme Court precedent if it appears outdated. The Supreme Court alone can overrule its own precedents, and the fact that a plaintiff articulates a new theory as to why a different result should be reached is insufficient to revisit a settled issue.”
Thomas Bundy III, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan representing Colton, did not immediately return calls for comment.