Supreme Court reviews five age discrimination cases

March 17, 2008 - by: Diversity Insight 0 COMMENTS

The U.S. Supreme Court took on five cases this term involving allegations of workplace age bias. Rulings are out on two of the cases.

In Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, the Court ruled that an employee suing her employer couldn’t use “me, too” evidence – testimony from employees who had different supervisors. But such evidence isn’t always out of bounds; decisions must be made case by case.
In Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki, the Court decided what constitutes a charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. FedEx claimed that since the EEOC didn’t treat the documents it received alleging bias like a charge, the suit should have been dismissed. The Court disagreed saying the employee’s right to sue doesn’t depend on the EEOC’s taking action. It just requires that a charge be filed.
In Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC, the Court is to decide whether a benefit plan discriminates against older workers by denying disability payments to employees eligible for retirement. In Gomez-Perez v. Potter, the Court will decide whether federal employees claiming age discrimination are protected from retaliation. Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab explores a dispute over who bears the burden of proof – the workers or the employer, which claimed layoffs were unrelated to age.

EEOC settles suit against mutual fund giant

The Vanguard Group, Inc., one of the world’s largest investment management companies, will pay $500,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit. The EEOC had charged that following an African-American employee’s complaints of race discrimination, Vanguard subjected him to a series of adverse employment actions culminating in his termination.

Raymond Ross, of Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, began working for the Valley Forge, Pennsylvania-based company in March 1993 and received favorable performance reviews throughout his employment. In 1998, he received a promotion to Engineer V, the highest nonofficer grade for a nonsupervisory employee. In January 2002, however, he began to report to a different department and a new set of managers at Vanguard’s Malvern, Pennsylvania, office.

Beginning in April 2002, Ross complained that he was being treated less favorably and discriminated against based on his race. Thereafter, he began to experience acts of retaliation, including unfavorable changes in his work conditions and assignments, from the managers he accused of race discrimination. The EEOC said that pattern of retaliation resulted in Ross’s termination on July 29, 2003.

In addition to the $500,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit requires that Vanguard provide equitable relief. That includes drafting in plain English a policy opposing illegal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and making the policy available to all employees; having a complaint procedure for violations of company policies against discrimination and retaliation; and providing antidiscrimination training to managers, supervisors, and HR employees. The company will also report to the EEOC on any complaints of unlawful retaliation it receives and on its compliance with the consent decree.

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