Employees now bear the burden of proving that age was a dominant factor in his or her firing or demotion in order to win a case. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employees have the burden of proving that age was the “but-for” cause of an employer’s adverse decision.
With age-discrimination lawsuits growing at an alarming rate, the 5-4 ruling (Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.) is considered a win for businesses that face age-bias lawsuits. Before last week, workers had to show only that age was a factor in the decision.
"The burden of persuasion does not shift to the employer to show that it would have taken the action regardless of age," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority. He added this legal rule applies "even when a plaintiff has produced some evidence that age was one motivating factor."
Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the opinion would help companies defend against age-bias claims. "Requiring claimants to show direct evidence that age played a substantial role in the challenged employment decision is the appropriate and fair standard," Ms. Harned said. (Wall Street Journal)
Since the U.S. economy began to slide downward, age discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have increased by 29%, a jump from 19,100 in 2007 to more than 24,500 in 2008. (Washington Times)
This case involved a lawsuit brought against FBL Financial Group by Jack Gross, under the ADEA. Gross claimed that FBL violated the ADEA when he was demoted and some of his prior responsibilities were given to a younger worker.