Court To Rule On What Constitutes Age Discrimination

A case that could have dramatic repercussions on age discrimination lawsuits is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court earlier this week said it will hear arguments next spring in Reeves v Sanderson Plumbing Products because there is a divided opinion as to whether the employee was fired for cause or because of his age. The high court's decision will provide the parameters for what standards of evidence someone must provide to file a lawsuit for age discrimination. The decision by the appellate court in New Orleans in Reeves v Sanderson both overturned a lower court ruling and used a different standard of evidence than other U.S. appellate courts had applied, saying that the fired employee must show that both the company's stated reason for the firing was false, and that age discrimination was the real reason for the dismissal. The case involves an employee, Roger Reeves, who was fired in 1995 at age 57 by Sanderson Plumbing Products Inc. of Columbus, Miss. Reeves told the court that several months before he was fired, a supervisor told him that he was "too damn old to do the job." The company argues that Reeves was dismissed for shoddy recordkeeping after an audit found that Reeves and another supervisor had falsified and made errors on employee attendance records.

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