The outcome of a Supreme Court case coming forward this term could have an impact on how federal workers in California fight back against age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed in 1967, forbade discrimination on the basis of age for workers. However, appeals courts have split over the definition of actionable age discrimination. Some courts argue that workers must only show that age bias was one contributing factor in a negative decision about employment, promotion, termination or another employment-related decision. It does not need to be the only factor or even the primary one.
On the other hand, other federal appeals courts have ruled that, in order to prevail, workers must show that age discrimination was the determining factor in the negative employment actions they suffered. In a case in which a pharmacist is suing the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Supreme Court will put forward its interpretation of the law. The case involves a female pharmacist over 50 who alleges that she suffered age discrimination as well as retaliation for supporting co-workers’ claims of sex discrimination.
She also said that she was retaliated against after offering testimony to support two other women pharmacists who made a complaint about sex discrimination. While she presented substantial evidence that age discrimination was at least a factor in the decision, one federal appeals court dismissed her case, saying that she could not show that age bias was the sole determining factor.
Workers in the public or private sector have a right to work without discrimination on the basis of their age. Employees who have experienced age bias or other forms of workplace discrimination may consult with an employment law attorney about their options to seek justice.