The Supreme Court issued its opinion in Gross v. FBL Financial Services last week, holding that a plaintiff bringing an age-discrimination claim must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that age was the “but-for” cause of the challenged adverse employment action. The burden of persuasion does not shift to the employer to show that it would have taken the action regardless of age, even when a plaintiff has produced some evidence that age was one motivating factor in that decision.
Title VII permits plaintiffs to prove that the employer had several motive. So long as the plaintiff shows that at least one of the motives was discriminatory, he has met his burden to show cause. The Supreme Court’s ruing in Gross, on the other hand, makes clear that the ADEA does not provide for a mixed-motive analysis.
The decision will have positive implications for employers who find themselves defending against an age-discrimination claim.