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Age Discrimination Suits Jump, But Wins Are Elusive

NPR Morning Edition (02/16/12) Yuki Noguchi

People 55 or older generally take three months longer to find a new job than does the average person looking for a job, and given the tight job market, age discrimination complaints are increasing—but becoming more difficult to win. Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc. has a lot to do with that, employment law experts say. That case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court; the majority ruled that a plaintiff must prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that age was the reason for discrimination. Essentially, Gross v. FBL increased the burden of proof for age discrimination suits. Since the ruling, hundreds of other cases have been thrown out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says age discrimination is a growing problem. According to Stuart Ishimaru, an EEOC commissioner, “The number of formal complaints that come in to us understate the nature of the problem.” Ishimaru says hiring has been “a real conundrum for us. And frankly in this economy, where people are looking for jobs, they don’t have time to worry about a discrimination suit. They’re not going to be thinking about this.”