Draft Registration Front and Center in Sex Discrimination Case

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit by four men who claim they unfairly lost their government jobs because they had not registered for the draft. The plaintiffs filed suit in Massachusetts federal court, but lost their case in which they argued that termination for not complying with the Selective Service System was sexist because women were not required to comply with the law. A panel of judges with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case and disagreed with the lower court ruling, and sent it back for reconsideration.  
Under current law, male citizens—but not females— must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of their eighteenth birthday. Failure to do so is considered a crime punishable by fine and/or prison. Men may register belatedly up to the age of 26.
In 1987, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) sponsored a successful bill that barred men who failed to register from working for any agency within the Executive branch of the government.
The lead plaintiff in this case, 42-year-old Michael Elgin, began working for the IRS in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1991. In 2002, during a routine background check for a promotion, it was discovered that Elgin had never registered for the draft. The matter was forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In the meantime, Elgin continued to work at the IRS. Finally, in January 2007, the OPM ruled that Elgin was ineligible to work for the U.S. Government. The IRS appealed the decision, noting that, Elgin had “an exemplary record with the IRS and is a valued and trusted employee whose loss would negatively impact his fellow employees, the employees he supports daily and management.” OPM rejected the appeal and the IRS was forced to fire Elgin.
Elgin’s lawyers point out that no American has been drafted since 1973, and that more than 200,000 women now serve in the U.S. military. Women are eligible for 80% of military job titles and now make up 15% of the armed forces.
-David Wallechinsky
Ex-Civil Servants Can Fight Draft Requirement (by Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News Service)
Michael Elgin v. Henry Paulson (U.S. District Court, Massachusetts) (pdf)


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