Supreme Court Sides with Businesses in Age Discrimination Case

The U.S Supreme Court decided the age discrimination case of Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc on Thursday with a five to four ruling in favor of the defendant. The majority opinion of the Court ruled that claimants in age discrimination cases must show direct evidence that their age played a significant role in their employers’ decisions.

Speaking for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote: “even if age can be proven to be a partially motivating factor for a business’s decision, age discrimination claimants must meet a higher burden of persuasion.” Speaking for the minority, Justice John Stevens suggested that the majority was essentially attempting to legislate from the bench by disregarding a 1991 amendment to federal civil rights laws.

Facts of the Case
The discrimination matter debated concerns an executive at FBL Financial Group named Jack Gross, who had allegedly been passed over for promotion in favor of a younger employee who had once been his subordinate. Pursuant to the Age Discrimination Employment Act, Mr. Gross sued his employer and was awarded $46,945 by a federal jury. The company claimed that Mr. Gross had been demoted from Director to Coordinator due to in-company restructuring.

Employer advocacy organizations, such as the National Federation of Independent Business, have cheered the high court’s decision. Speaking on behalf of disappointed labor advocates, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont argued that the court’s ruling disregarded legislative precedent — most notably the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Discrimination Act that Congress passed earlier this year.

If you or a family member is facing an age discrimination matter at a workplace, the law firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP may be able to provide strategic assistance. Book a free consultation with us today to explore your options.