Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Boosts Illegally Fired Workers' Rights

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Boosts Illegally Fired Workers' Rights

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court took a key weapon from companies accused of illegally firing employees, ruling Monday they cannot escape liability by later finding a lawful reason to justify the dismissal.

But the unanimous decision in a Tennessee case limited the remedies available to employees who show they were fired because of illegal bias.

If such employees committed wrongdoing themselves, they're not entitled to being reinstated and also face limits on how much back pay they can receive, the court said.

The ruling could affect thousands of cases nationwide in which employers are accused of job discrimination based on age, race, sex or religion.

Such laws seek to deter job bias and compensate its victims, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court.

"It would not accord with this scheme if after-acquired evidence of wrongdoing that would have resulted in termination operates, in every instance, to bar all relief for an earlier violation of the act," Kennedy said.

"I think it's a great victory," said Deborah Ellis of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's a strong reaffirmation of anti-discrimination as a national value."

In other action Monday, the justices: Agreed to decide, in a Florida case, whether federal courts can oversee negotiations between Indian tribes and state officials about starting gambling operations on Indian reservations. Let stand a jury's finding that Pan American airlines was guilty of willful misconduct in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Flight 103 that killed 270 people at Lockerbie, Scotland. Agreed to use the case of an Alabama man who won a $2 million award because of undisclosed repairs to his new car to consider imposing constitutional limits on such court awards.

The job-bias ruling reinstated Christine McKennon's lawsuit against her former employer, the Nashville Banner Publishing Co. …

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