High Court Rejuvenates Age Suit

March 18, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - An age discrimination lawsuit by the former employee of a New York reinsurance company won new life recently.

Justices threw out a decision by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York dismissing the discrimination claims of Akos Swierkiewicz, who also alleged that his former employer, Sorema N.A., discriminated against him because of his national origin. 

The appellate decision held that employee discrimination plaintiffs had to have stronger evidence before bringing their case to court.

The court said the rule requiring a high level of proof actually governed the quality of evidence presented in court. It was not intended to hold plaintiffs to a higher standard in order to be allowed to file suit and to survive initial defense requests their claims be dismissed, the high court said.

That higher standard of proof, the court said, would have required Swierkiewicz to allege:

  • membership in a protected group
  • qualification for the job in question
  • an adverse employment action
  • circumstances that support an inference of discrimination.

Actually, justices said, a lawsuit need include only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief.

The case is Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., U.S., No. 00-1853.