Elder v. WilliamsAnnotate this Case
Timothy Williams began working at the El Paso County, Colorado Sheriff’s Office in 2002 and, after multiple promotions over the course of his career, reached the rank of lieutenant. In March 2016, Sheriff Bill Elder ordered a mandatory survey requesting, among other things, retirement eligibility dates from all employees. Williams, who then would have been eligible for full retirement benefits June 1, 2018, completed this survey and reported that he expected to retire within the next five years. Thereafter, Williams was assigned to a team that conducted investigations into alleged misconduct by personnel in his office. Apparently, Sheriff Elder was unhappy with Williams’s investigation and the sanctions that Williams recommended, and he confronted Williams in a meeting about it. This lead to a demotion to senior deputy, which carried a significant change in rank, pay, and duties that resulted in substantial adverse retirement benefit consequences for Williams. To avoid these consequences, Williams retired the following day, ultimately to be replaced by a younger and purportedly less qualified employee. Williams thereafter filed age discrimination and retaliation charges El Paso County Sheriff’s Office with the Colorado Civil Rights Division and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on the interplay between the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act ("CADA") and the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA"). As applied to this case, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) claims for compensatory relief under CADA were not claims for “injuries which lie in tort or could lie in tort” for purposes of the CGIA and therefore public entities were not immune from CADA claims under the CGIA; (2) “the state,” as used in subsection 24-34-405(8)(g), included political subdivisions of the state and thus political subdivisions were not immune from claims for compensatory damages based on intentional unfair or discriminatory employment practices; and (3) front pay was equitable and not compensatory in nature under CADA, and age discrimination and retaliation claims seeking front pay did not lie and could not lie in tort for CGIA purposes.