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November 12, 2004
Supreme Court Debates Reach of Age-Bias Law

The U.S. Supreme Court is debating whether federal age-bias law allows workers to file lawsuits alleging an employer's policy, while neutral on its face, has a disproportionate adverse effect on older workers, the Associated Press reports.

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The Associated Press notes that Jackson, Mississippi, police officers and dispatchers are arguing that the court should allow these disparate-impact claims in age-bias cases just as the court has in cases of sex discrimination and racial discrimination.

Lower courts have been split on whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act covers disparate-impact claims.

In the lawsuit, the police officers and dispatchers are challenging the city's practice for attracting more new officers. The department awarded higher pay raises to newer officers.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor asked whether there would be a flood of age-bias lawsuits alleging disparate impact if the court allows them, the news service reports. Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether Congress intended to allow disparate-impact claims in age-discrimination cases because it used similar language in crafting ADEA as it did in writing the federal law prohibiting sex and racial discrimination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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