The Supreme Court just made it more difficult for employees to win age-bias cases against their employers.
That’s very good news, given that age discrimination claims are skyrocketing as the workforce ages — according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age bias claims rose by 29% in 2008.
We could go into a long legal analysis of the decision, but here’s the bottom line: Earlier federal rulings held that if workers could show that age was a factor in their demotion or firing, the company carried the burden of proving it had other legitimate reasons for taking the action.
The Supreme Court flipped the script, ruling that employees must prove their age was the key motivator for the company’s decision.
That, the experts say, is likely to be very difficult for workers. Diana Hoover, a Houston attorney, was quoted in the New York Times: “You’re not going to have an employer stand up and announce, ‘I’m discriminating against you because of your age.'”
Employers nationally are heralding the decision, but the relief may have an expiration date. Congressional Democrats are already making noises about passing legislation that would negate the Supreme Court decision.
And, as you remember, there’s some recent precedent for doing just that. Congress passed both the ADA Amendments Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in direct response to what the Democratic majority felt were several too-narrow Supreme Court rulings.
The age-bias case decided by the Supreme Court was Gross v. FBL Financial Services. For a look at the case, go here.