Supreme Court to Hear Age Discrimination Suit

November 3, 2004 ( - The Supreme Court is set to hear a case that is expected to set new standards for on-the-job lawsuits regarding age discrimination.

In a case, brought by police officers against the City of Jackson, Mississippi, the court will decide how much protection older employees have against policies that, although seemingly neutral, may have adverse effects on older employees. The court will hear the case on Wednesday, the Associate Press reported.

The protection for older workers currently stems from a 1967 anti-discrimination law, which covers almost half the workforce. It applies to workers over 40 years of age, and allows older workers to win back pay, benefits, and other compensation if they prove employers discriminated due to age, the AP said.

The case, Smith v.City of Jackson, Miss., revolves around a bonus policy for new officers. Attempting to attract more new officers to combat crime problems, the city gave bonuses, the largest going to new employees. Officers and police dispatchers sued the city, losing in a lower court. They have, however, appealed to the Supreme Court.

The court may find precedent in similar cases regarding sex and race discrimination, where it has ruled that lawsuits are allowed against seemingly neutral policies that hurt these groups.

AARP is strongly supporting the lawsuit, asserting that by ruling against it, the court could be sending a message that age discrimination is acceptable, the AP reported. Business groups and government associations support the city, asserting that restricting the ability to manage the workforce would raise costs on government agencies unnecessarily.