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Court makes it harder to prove age discrimination

Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 11:35 a.m. CDT; updated 5:12 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 18, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has made it harder to prove discrimination on the basis of age, ruling against an employee in his mid-50s who says he was demoted because of his age.

In a 5-4 decision Thursday written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court said a worker has to prove that age was the key factor in an employment decision, even if there is some evidence that age played a role. In some other discrimination lawsuits, the burden of proof shifts to the employer once a worker shows there is some reason to believe a decision was made for improper reasons.

Jack Gross had been a vice president of FBL Financial Services of West Des Moines, Iowa. But in 2001, he lost the title of vice president in a reorganization and two years later, some of his responsibilities were given to a colleague.

Gross sued under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and a jury agreed that his age was a motivating factor in his demotion. Gross was awarded $46,945 in lost compensation.

The federal appeals court in St. Louis, however, overturned the verdict.

The case is Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 08-441.

 


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