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No Mixed Motive Cases Under ADEA Says U.S. Supreme Court

Published by on June 18, 2009

The U.S. Supreme Court held today in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. that a plaintiff in a case brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) cannot use the “mixed motive” proof standard to prove their claim.  A sampling of today’s blog comments are here, here and here.  (We will update the post with […]

The U.S. Supreme Court held today in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. that a plaintiff in a case brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) cannot use the “mixed motive” proof standard to prove their claim.  A sampling of today’s blog comments are here, here and here.  (We will update the post with additional blog posts or articles of interest.)  More after the break.

The ADEA provides that it is unlawful to make certain employment decisions “because of” an individual’s age.  Based on that language, the Court held that “[a] plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (which may be direct or circumstantial), that age was the “but-for” cause of the challenged employer decision.”  The Court found it significant that the ADEA has never been amended to provide that a plaintiff may prevail by showing that age was a “motivating” factor in the challenged employment decision, while Title VII has been so amended.

This decision is likely to make it more difficult for age discrimination plaintiffs to withstand a pre-trial motion for summary judgment by the employer.  It is also likely to lead to legislation being introduced in Congress to add mixed-motive language to the ADEA, which would make this decision moot.

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