Justices rule for federal employee over age discrimination
Washington – Well, OK, boomer.
The Supreme Court made it easier Monday for federal employees 40 and older to sue for age discrimination.
The justices ruled 8-1 that federal workers have a lower hurdle to overcome than their counterparts in the private sector. The decision came in the case in which Chief Justice John Roberts, a 65-year-old baby boomer, invoked the “OK, boomer” meme during arguments in January for the first time in High-Court records.
The court issued the opinion without taking the bench for the third straight week because of the coronavirus. Arguments scheduled for the spring have been postponed indefinitely.
An employee can win a lawsuit by showing that age discrimination was part of the process, even if the people who were selected were better qualified, the court held in an opinion by another boomer, 70-year-old Justice Samuel Alito. The ruling came in the case of a Veterans Affairs Department employee who was in her early 50s when she sued for age discrimination after being denied promotions and training opportunities.
The outcome stands in contrast to a 2009 decision in which the court said age has to be the key factor in a private sector employment decision. The language of the law’s provisions covering private and federal employees is different.
Alito wrote that, “if Congress had wanted to impose the same standard on all employers, it could have easily done so.”
But the opinion also made clear that an employee could not expect to win back pay or the promotion she sought if discrimination was not the key factor in the employment decision at issue. There could be other options, including a court order forbidding the agency from using the same flawed process in the future, Alito wrote.
Justice Clarence Thomas, 71, also a member of the post-World War II baby boom generation, dissented.
Supreme Court justices sometimes will imagine themselves in situations like the ones that land people before the High Court, but that can be hard to do when the subject is employment discrimination because the justices have lifetime tenure. The youngest justice, Neil Gorsuch, is 52. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, is the eldest.
Court backs cops in traffic stops
Police can pull over a car when they know only that its owner’s license is invalid, even if they don’t know who’s behind the wheel, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The court said in an 8-1 decision that unless there’s reason to believe otherwise, it’s common sense for an officer to think the car’s owner will be driving.
“Empirical studies demonstrate what common experience readily reveals: Drivers with revoked licenses frequently continue to drive and therefore to pose safety risks to other motorists and pedestrians,” Thomas wrote for the court.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
The High Court reversed a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found police violated a driver’s constitutional rights when they stopped his pickup based only on information that the truck owner’s license had been revoked.
‘Texas Seven’ case declined
The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of a Texas death row inmate who argued he should get a new trial because the judge who presided over his case was biased against Jews.
The justices said they would not hear the case of Randy Halprin, one of the so-called Texas 7, but Halprin’s claims of bias and that he should get a new trial are still under review by a Texas court.
Halprin and six others escaped from prison in 2000. The group later robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas, fatally shooting responding police officer Aubrey Hawkins as they fled.
Lawyers for Halprin, who is Jewish, said an investigation found that Judge Vickers Cunningham, who presided over his trial, was anti-Semitic and frequently used racial slurs.