Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Senate to Examine Gross v. FBL

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on, and I quote, "Workplace Fairness: Has the Supreme Court Been Misinterpreting Laws Designed to Protect American Workers from Discrimination?" The witness list includes:

  • Jamie Leigh Jones of the Jamie Leigh Foundation, an organization dedicated to victims of crime working overseas for government contractors and subs;
  • Prof. Michael Foreman from my undergrad alma mater, Penn State, where he directs the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic at the law school; and
  • Jack Gross, plaintiff in Gross v. FBL Financial.

That last name's the biggie. I have covered the Gross case fairly extensively on this blog, including a summary of the Supreme Court's opinion. The Supreme Court case places a higher burden on Age Discrimination plaintiffs (as compared to Title VII plaintiffs) in "mixed motive" cases. I'll point out that I predicted Congressional action was likely in the end of that summary. Before I get too self-congratulatory I should note that it's just a hearing and to my knowledge no precise action has been proposed.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Patrick Leahy (D-VT), issued a statement expressly stating that the hearing will focus on Gross (and Circuit City v. Adams, applying the Federal Arbitration Act to employment contracts). Leahy describes Gross as a decision that makes it "more difficult for victims to prove workplace discrimination." The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7, at 10:00 am and will be webcast live online (presumably here - then click "Webcast"). Will the Senate drop Gross like they did Ledbetter? Stay tuned...

UPDATE (10/8/09): New legislation introduced in the House and Senate - Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.