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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