Supreme Court Deals a Victory to Employers in Age Discrimination Cases


In what is being viewed as a significant victory for employers, the United States Supreme Court yesterday made it more difficult for plaintiffs to prove claims of age discrimination.

The sharply divided Court, in a 5-4 decision (Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.), held that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) requires employees to prove that age was the decisive factor in the employer’s adverse employment action, not simply one of several contributing factors to the employer’s action. The majority decision, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, eliminates so-called “mixed motive” claims on the basis of age, stating that an employee alleging age discrimination bears the full burden of persuasion to show that age bias or discrimination was the employer’s deciding factor in taking adverse action against the employee.

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