Last week, the US Supreme Court made it easier for a federal worker to establish a claim for age bias.
This decision does not impact private employers, because it relied on the specific language of the federal sector section of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). But could this signal a possible future loosening of the burden of proof for other plaintiffs? We will have to wait and see.
SCOTUS held that federal employees can establish age discrimination under the federal sector section of the ADEA, merely by proving that age bias “taints the employer’s decision-making process.” Babb v. Wilkie, Secretary of Veteran Affairs, No. 18-882. This is weaker than the “but-for” standard of causation applicable to age discrimination claims under Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., 557 U.S. 167 (2009). In other words, the fact that the same employment decision would have been reached had age not been taken into account is not relevant for purposes of deciding a federal government employee’s age discrimination claim.