A foreign services official is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to weigh in on her age discrimination suit against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In September, a federal judge in Washington dismissed Elizabeth Colton’s case because she had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Colton’s suit stems from her allegation 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contended that the offer of a position as chief of the political and economic section at the U.S. embassy in Algiers was revoked when her supervisors realized that the two-year post would require her to work past the agency’s mandatory retirement age of 65.
Colton, who is being represented by a team of lawyers from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, has also alleged that after pushing back against the mandatory retirement age, she was allegedly subject to retaliation and told by senior Foreign Service officials that challenging the retirement issue "could jeopardize her career."
Two months ago, 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. Leon determined that 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.
Colton filed a notice of appeal of that decision on Nov. 23. Thomas Bundy III, a Sutherland partner who has been leading the team handling Colton’s case, was not immediately available for comment.
Clinton has been represented by Peter Bryce and Thomas Zimpleman of the federal programs branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.