Supreme Court to Hear Sprint ADEA Case

June 12, 2007 ( - The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which will determine if employees trying to prove discrimination in the workplace have to limit themselves to co-workers with the same supervisor when presenting witnesses in court.

The Associated Press reports that several large companies, including AT&T Inc., Honeywell International Inc. and Lockheed Martin Corp., have made filings with the court in support of Sprint Nextel Corp.’s appeal, in hopes the high court will overturn an appeals court ruling that testimony from workers not part of the original suit can be heard. The companies say the ruling expands employer liability for discrimination to include individuals who are not specifically cited in cases when filed, and increase the frequency and cost of such lawsuits.

The original suit was brought by Ellen Mendelsohn against Sprint/United Management Co. Mendelsohn, the oldest manager in her unit, asserted that the company’s November 2002 reduction-in-force (RIF) was unfairly targeted against older workers and violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Mendelsohn tried to introduce testimony from five other employees who were terminated during the RIF and who also thought they had been discriminated against, but the trial judge blocked that testimony under the same-supervisor rule, which limits evidence to comparison of a supervisor’s disciplinary action with other actions of the same supervisor against other employees.

On appeal, the 10th Circuit held that the lower court had wrongly excluded the testimony and found that the evidence was appropriate (See Sprint Employee Prevails in Appellate Court ADEA Ruling ).

The case, Sprint/United Management Co. v. Ellen Mendelsohn (06-1221), will be considered during the Supreme Court’s next term, which begins in October, according to the AP.