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Thread: Supreme Court makes age bias suits harder to win

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Supreme Court makes age bias suits harder to win

    Supreme Court makes age bias suits harder to win - Los Angeles Times

    Justices, overturning a jury award won by a 54-year-old who was demoted, say workers bear the full burden of proof.
    By David G. Savage

    11:39 AM PDT, June 18, 2009

    Reporting from Washington The Supreme Court today made it harder for older workers who are laid off or demoted to win a claim of age discrimination.

    In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that these workers bear the full burden of proving that their age was the cause of their demotion or firing.

    The court's conservative majority rejected the approach adopted by some judges who said that, because job decisions often are made for several reasons, a company or agency that is sued for age bias must show it had a good reason, besides age, for demoting an older worker.

    Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking for the court, said employers do not have to defend their actions this way. The law requires the demoted worker who sues to prove "that age was the reason that the employer decided to act," he said.

    The ruling overturned a $47,000 jury verdict in favor of Jack Gross, a 54-year-old insurance claims adjuster from Iowa. He was demoted in a company reorganization, and his job was given to a woman in her 40s.

    He sued his employer under the federal law against age discrimination, and a judge told jurors that Gross had to prove his age was "a motivating factor" in the demotion. The judge also said the employer had to show it had other reasons for replacing him.

    The Supreme Court ruled today in Gross vs. FBL Financial Services that the judge erred by requiring the employer to defend its decision.

    The ruling was welcomed by business groups. Age discrimination claims have been one of the fastest-growing categories of employment suits. And the recession and corporate downsizings are likely to add to the number of job bias suits against employers.

    "This decision is extremely important to small-business owners," said Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "We are pleased the court decided the burden of proof [in these age bias cases] remains with the plaintiff."

    Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the court's ruling for "disregarding congressional intent."

    "This overreaching by a narrow majority of the court will have a detrimental effect on all Americans and their families," Leahy said. "In these difficult economic times, American workers need to be protected from discrimination."

    In a sharply worded dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens accused the court's majority of "an unabashed display of judicial lawmaking."

    He noted that the court and Congress had said that when "mixed motives" are involved in an employment case, the employer must defend its decision. These instances involved claims of racial discrimination, but Stevens said the same approach should apply in age bias cases.

    Stevens wrote that if an older worker can show some evidence he was a victim of age bias, the employer should be required to show it had a good reason for demoting him. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer also dissented.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Not a shock. The courts have been making discrimination cases, of any kind, much harder to win for the last few years.

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