Older workers will have a harder time suing for age discrimination as a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling. The ruling makes it more difficult to sue for age discrimination than it is to sue for other types of bias, such as sex, race, religion, or national origin.
This is true for two reasons:
● First, employees who sue for age discrimination now have to prove that age was the motivating cause behind their firing or demotion. They have to show that they wouldn’t have been fired or demoted but for their age.
This is different from other types of discrimination suits, where employees can win even if the employer had “mixed motives.” That is, an employee can win a sex or race discrimination suit even if sex or race was simply one motive among several, and the employer was also motivated by other, legitimate considerations.
● Second, employees who sue for age discrimination now have the “burden of proof.” It’s up to them to show that it was more likely than not that they were fired or demoted due to age.
In other types of discrimination suits, employees don’t have this burden. They merely have to show some evidence that the employer acted based on sex, race, etc., and then the burden is on the employer to prove that it had an acceptable motive.
According to the Supreme Court, the reason for treating age differently from other types of discrimination is that age-bias suits are governed by a separate federal law that is worded differently from other federal discrimination laws. However, it’s important to note that the Supreme Court case only involves suits under these federal laws. Many states have their own age discrimination laws, and these might be more favorable to employees.