Supreme Court Says Men Denied Federal Jobs for Failing to Register for the Draft Can’t Use Courts to Charge Sex Discrimination
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Four men sued the federal government in 2011 claiming they were unfairly terminated from their government positions for not registering for the draft.
Their case was founded on the argument that the Selective Service System was sexist since women are not required to register after they turn 18.
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.
In the case of the lead plaintiff, Michael Elgin had worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 11 years when a routine background check for a promotion in 2002 revealed that he had never complied with the Selective Service System. IRS officials did not want to fire Elgin, but were forced to do so five years later by the Office of Personnel Management.
Elgin and three other men, Aaron Lawson, Henry Tucker and Christon Colby, filed suit in Massachusetts federal court Their lawyers pointed 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.
They lost their case, but appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which disagreed with the lower court ruling and sent it back for reconsideration.
The case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in Elgin v. Department of the Treasury in February 2012. In its 6-3 opinion delivered in June, the Supreme Court decided against the plaintiffs, declaring that federal employees can’t sue in the courts if they lose their jobs for not complying with a law, even if they claim that the statute in unconstitutional. Instead they must go through existing federal merit boards. The decision avoided the issue of the sexist nature of the draft.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Court Venues Limited for Draft Requirement Fight (by Barbara Leonard, Courthouse News)
Elgin et al v. Department of the Treasury et al (U.S. Supreme Court) (pdf)
Draft Registration Front and Center in Sex Discrimination Case (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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