US Supreme Court broadens scope of permissible evidence for proving discrimination; Sprint/United Management v. Mendelsohn; 2/26/08

US Supreme Court February 26, 2008: The United States Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn, 128 S. Ct. 1140 (2008) (FindLaw site opinion). The issue in this federal age discrimination case (ADEA) was whether the plaintiff could present evidence to the jury about other alleged older discrimination victims, where the decision made to terminate the other individuals was not made by the same decision-maker that terminated the plaintiff.

The employer (Sprint) contended that evidence of other alleged age discrimination victims was not admissible where the decision-makers for those other victims were different from the decision-makers who took action against the plaintiff.

The Supreme Court rejected the employer’s argument and said that the evidence of other victims might be admissible, even if different decision-makers were involved. The trial court should conduct a “balancing test” for admissibility of discrimination against other employees by different supervisors, where the relevance of the other employees’ situation is balanced against unfair prejudice to the employer.

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Drew M. Capuder

Publisher of Drew Capuder's Employment Law Blog. Lawyer with more than 29 years experience, focusing on employment law, commercial litigation, and mediation. Extensive trial and appellate experience in state and federal courts. Call Drew at 304-333-5261
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2 thoughts on “US Supreme Court broadens scope of permissible evidence for proving discrimination; Sprint/United Management v. Mendelsohn; 2/26/08”

  1. Age discrimination? I admit….I’m not a lawyer, however, I DO have some experience in human behavior and I am very curious……How does someone “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that they were not able to obtain (or perhaps maintain) a particular type of employment becuase they were too old? It seems to me that corporate America is wise to the laws in place to protect the employee and if they thought someone was too old to take on (or keep) they wouldn’t just say that. Or would they? Experience in any position is under rated. For instance: If you go to the emergency room with with chest pain, do you want the nurse that grew old while caring for others with chest pain or do you want the new graduate nurse to see to your needs? If you find yourself in need of a public defender, do you want one that has been to the plate several times, or do you want to be the first for the newer ( probable younger) attorney the court could appoint you? These examples could go on with infinite scenerios. Why isn’t experience considered an asset and even if you DON’T get the job because you are no longer wet behind the ears, how do you prove that?

  2. I am not a lawyer, but I don’t understand how the defense could even begin to argue that age discrimination was not the issue because one company individual did not do all the terminations. Common sense would tell one that a company is generally structured in such a way that senior management, or a board of directors, is aware whom is being let go from employement and receives approval via HR before presenting the axe, so to speak.

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