A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week made it easier for federal workers over 40 to sue for age discrimination. The ruling was for a case brought by Noris Babb, a clinical pharmacist for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bay Pines, FL. Beginning in her late 40s, she noticed she was not getting advanced positions that paid more, but that predominantly men in their 30s were getting the jobs.
Other coworkers over 45 found they were not getting these advanced positions either. The women filed suits against the VA, including Babb. In her own suit, she said the VA discriminated against her based on age by not making promotions available to her, keeping her from training opportunities, and making discriminatory comments to her based on her age.
At first, the federal district court judge threw out the suit, saying that Babb hadn’t proved that age was the only reason for these restrictions, and the Trump Administration supported that ruling. But that ruling went directly against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that protects federal workers from discrimination based on age.
The U.S. Supreme Court, though, sided with Babb and the EEOC in an 8-to-1 ruling, saying that federal employees are protected against discrimination of any kind, including age. Babb’s attorney, Roman Martinez, said the “key takeaway in the case” is that if the federal government discriminates based on age, “it has violated the law.” Justice Samuel Alito said that federal law “demands that personnel actions be untainted by any consideration of age.”