Senators look to repudiate Supreme Court ruling on age discrimination

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and two other senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would overturn a Supreme Court decision they say has weakened federal law preventing age discrimination.

Harkin, along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said the bill is a response to the 2009 ruling in which the Supreme Court said an Iowa employee, Jack Gross, had the burden of showing that age discrimination was the decisive factor that led to his demotion. The senators said that weakened the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which had required workers only to argue that age discrimination was a factor in an adverse employment decision, and put the burden on employers to show that there were other reasons for this decision.

Harkin said Tuesday that the Supreme Court’s decision “effectively rewrote the law,” after Gross won a settlement in a lower court for $47,000.

“[T]he Court made it harder for those with legitimate age discrimination claims to prevail under the ADEA,” Harkin said. “In fact, on remand, despite the fact Mr. Gross had established that age discrimination was a factor in his demotion, he lost his retrial.”

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