Pair of Supreme Court rulings redefine race, age bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

In the days before ending its 2008-09 term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important employment law rulings:

• It’s now harder for employees to win age bias lawsuits. In a 5-4 decision, the court said that for employees to successfully bring an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuit, they must now show that age discrimination was the cause—not just one of several contributing factors—for their termination or other adverse job action. This burden-of-proof shift will set a higher bar for workers bringing age discrimination suits. Find the full analysis at www.theHRSpecialist.com/Gross. (Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc., No. 08-441)

• Court rules on race bias in pre-hire testing. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of white New Haven, Conn., firefighters who charged the city discriminated against them when it refused to promote them after they passed a test that few black co-workers did. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said New Haven shouldn’t have thrown out the promotion test results just because it feared the test would have a disparate impact on black firefighters. The court said that before an employer throws out the results of a pre-hire exam because it fears a discrimination lawsuit, it must have a “strong basis in evidence” to believe that the test is discriminatory under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Bottom line: As long as you can show that the test is job-related and consistent with business necessity, you should accept the results of the test. Read more about the impact of the case at www.theHRSpecialist.com/Ricci. (Ricci v. DeStefano, No. 07–1428)

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