Employment, Labor and Benefits/Appellate Alert: U.S. Supreme Court Scores One for Employers in "Mixed-Motives" Age Discrimination Cases

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On June 18, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., No.08-441, which significantly changes the evidence necessary to prove an age discrimination claim. The Court held that “a plaintiff must prove that age was the "but for" cause of the employer's adverse decision” to “establish a disparate-treatment claim under” the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the ADEA). In doing so, the Court rejected case law holding that a plaintiff could prevail in an ADEA action by establishing that age played a motivating part in an adverse employment decision. This holding represents a departure from existing precedent, and favors employers by making it more difficult for employees to prevail on an ADEA claim.

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