Court Ruling Backs Fired Workers

Ruling unanimously in an important job discrimination case, the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a defense that employers have used with increasing success to avoid liability for dismissing employees for illegal reasons such as race or age.

The court ruled that employees who lose their jobs because of discrimination still are entitled to back pay even if the employer later discovers misconduct that would have justified dismissal had it been known at the time.

A growing number of lower federal courts have allowed employers to use what is known as “after-acquired” evidence - belated discovery of an exaggerated resume or a violation of company rules, for example - as a complete defense to a job discrimination lawsuit even if the employer has conceded that the real reason for the dismissal was a discriminatory one.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that this use of after-acquired evidence frustrates the purpose of the federal laws against discrimination.

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