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United States Supreme Court Clarifies Proof of Age Discrimination Under the ADEA That Could Have Impact in New York and Elsewhere

April 21, 2020

Under both State and Federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees due to age. Specifically, the Age Discrimination of Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination in the workplace. Recently, the United States Supreme Court clarified the parameters for federal employees to pursue or recover under an age-discrimination claim under the ADEA. If you are a federal employee who was subject to age discrimination in the workplace, it is prudent to meet with a skillful New York employment discrimination attorney regarding your potential claims.

Facts of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked for the federal government as a pharmacist practicing disease state management, which was an advanced scope designation. In 2010, the defendant began an initiative to promote pharmacists who practiced disease state management. In 2013, however, the plaintiff’s advanced scope designation was taken away, and while she received a new position, her holiday pay was reduced. She was also denied additional training and passed over for promotions. She subsequently filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging, in part, discrimination based on age.

It is reported that the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. The plaintiff then appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and the Court agreed to hear the case to decide the discrete issue of whether the ADEA’s federal-sector provision requires a plaintiff to prove that his or her age was the “but for” cause of the defendant’s allegedly discriminatory actions.

Discrimination Claims Under the ADEA

In its ruling, the Court noted that the ADEA’s federal-sector provision states that personnel actions must be made without discrimination based on age. The defendant argued that the provision allowed for the imposition of liability only when age was the “but for” cause of an employer’s decision. In other words, an employee cannot obtain relief under the provision unless he or she shows that a decision affecting the employee would have been favorable if age had not been a factor. The plaintiff disagreed, arguing that the provision barred any adverse consideration of age in the process of making the decision, and therefore, “but for” causation was not needed.

The Court ultimately agreed with the plaintiff, finding that a plain reading of the provision compelled the decision that a plaintiff can establish a violation of the provision without proving that age was the “but for” cause of a personnel action. The Court clarified, however, that the issue of “but for” causation was relevant for determining an appropriate remedy.

Meet With a Knowledgeable Employment Attorney

If you were the victim of age discrimination in the workplace, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable New York employment discrimination attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to pursue. The experienced employment discrimination attorneys of Gerstman Schwartz LLP possess the skills and resources to help you set forth compelling arguments in favor of your recovery and we will work tirelessly to aid you in the pursuit of a just outcome. You can contact us at our Manhattan office at (212) 227-7070 or at our Garden City office at (516) 880-8170 or through the form online to set up a confidential and free conference.

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