Ruling on ADEA proof burden a hot topic

The Supreme Court’s decision in Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, placing the burdens of both production and persuasion on the employer in age discrimination cases, is hot news today. Some are seeing the pro-worker decision – one of several this term (Subscribers can read the Lawyers USA article about that here) – as a big contrast to the Court’s 2006-07 term, where notable pro-employer decisions including Ledbetter seemed to be the standard.

Business groups were taken by surprise by the ruling. Robin S. Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, told the New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse that the previous term had been “our best term ever.” Now “it’s back to the drawing board,” she said. “To achieve our objectives, we’ll have to battle it out case by case.”

Karen Harned of the National Federation of Independent Business told USA Today‘s Joan Biskupic that the ruling “ties the hands of employers to respond to market changes and new technology without fearing … a baseless” ADEA lawsuit.

Others cheered the opinion. In a statement, David Certner, AARP‘s chief legislative counsel said “the Meacham ruling is vital to the creation and maintenance of a work place that is fair and free of age bias.”


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