Case: Gross v. FBL Financial Services

Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Issue: Does the same burden of proof exist in age discrimination cases as it does in cases involving race or gender discrimination?

Background: In 1991 Congress amended discrimination laws by making it illegal for employers to use race or gender as a "motivating factor" in its employment decisions. That law however does not extend to age discrimination claims. A 1989 Supreme Court decision uses a "deciding factor" test to determine if age was illegally factored into an employment decision. The question presented here is which standard is applicable today.

Jack Gross claims his bosses demoted him because of his age. He was 54 when a younger worker was promoted and given more responsibility at their insurance company. Gross sued claiming age discrimination and a jury agreed awarding him almost $47,000. But the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the jury's verdict and ordered a new trial. It concluded the judge presented the jury with the wrong instructions about the level of proof required for holding the company liable.