Supreme Court- Age Discrimination Easier To Prove Where Neutral Policy Affects Older Workers More

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling of June 19, 2008 makes it easier for Plaintiffs to prove age discrimination in federal court. Under this ruling, where an employee shows that a particular employment policy instituted by an employer affects older workers disproportionately, the burden is now placed on the employer to prove that those policies were based on reasonable factors other than age. If unable to prove this defense, the employee will likely win the case. This applies even if the claimed policy is neutral on its face so long as it has a disparate impact on older workers.

This is a significant decision in favor of employees claiming age discrimination because it requires employers to prove that their choices are reasonable, thus making such cases harder and costlier for employers to defend. While plaintiffs must still isolate and identify specific employment practices that are allegedly responsible for the observed statistical disparities, the employer who seeks to benefit from the "reasonable factors other than age" exemption is required to prove that it applies. This decision significantly decreases the burden that employees must carry in disparate-impact age claims. Meacham, et. al. v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, et. al., Case Number 06-1505, 2008 U.S. Lexis 5029 (June 19, 2008). [Read the entire court ruling].

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