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Supreme Court makes it harder for workers to win discrimination lawsuits

The Supreme Court issued a pair of 5-to-4 rulings on workers' lawsuits. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissent in both cases calling for Congress to overturn the decisions by passing new legislation.

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People wait outside the Supreme Court in Washington as key decisions are expected to be announced Monday, June 24. The high court handed down two important decisions Monday that will make it harder for workers to mount and win discrimination lawsuits against their employers.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The US Supreme Court handed down two important decisions Monday that will make it harder for workers to mount and win discrimination lawsuits against their employers.

In a pair of 5-to-4 decisions, the justices embraced a narrow definition of who qualifies as a supervisor for purposes of federal discrimination law, and the court endorsed a tough standard in cases where a worker claims to be the victim of retaliation after complaining of unlawful discrimination.

The majority justices said the narrow standards would be easier for courts to administer and that other safeguards were available to protect workers.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed a dissent in both cases calling for Congress to overturn the decisions by passing new legislation.

“Congress has, in the recent past, intervened to correct this Court’s wayward interpretations of Title VII,” she wrote, referring to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act in 2009 overturning a 2007 high court decision.

“The ball is once again in Congress’ court to correct the error into which this Court has fallen and to restore the robust protections against workplace harassment the Court weakens today,” she said.

“The winner today, as in most days in the recent past, is business,” Mark Graber, a law professor at the University of Maryland, said in a statement.

He said the decisions will help insulate businesses from liability in workplace discrimination and retaliation lawsuits.

Both cases were decided by the same 5-to-4 conservative-liberal split among the justices.

The retaliation decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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