High court lowers hurdle for employees in job-bias claims

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

In a pair of recent decisions, the Supreme Court made it easier for workers to bring bias claims against their employers.

Case 1. The Supreme Court said the 2nd Circuit made it too tough for workers to get their discrimination claims to the pretrial evidence-gathering phase. Employees shouldn't have to include facts in their original lawsuit that show evidence of discrimination, the high court said. They should only be required to make a "short and plain statement" of their claim. (Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, No. 00-1853).

Most federal appeals courts follow this "short and plain" standard, in line with the Supreme Court view. But circuit courts covering Connecticut, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Tennessee and Vermont had used the tougher standard. In those states, you can now expect more job-bias cases to go to trial.

Case 2. On March 19, the high court ruled that complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) don't have to be sworn statements to be official.

The ruling reversed an appeals court decision saying that although a college professor filed his complaint in time, his letter was not a sworn statement. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision said the EEOC's policy of allowing unsworn complaints is reasonable. (Edelman v. Lynchburg College, No. 00-1072)

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