PFAWF Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief In Employment Discrimination Case

On October 19, 2007, PFAWF joined 11 other civil rights groups in filing an amicus curiae brief in Sprint v. Mendelsohn, an employment discrimination case pending in the Supreme Court and one of the cases that we highlighted in our preview of the Court's term because of its importance to the right of employees who believe that they have been subjected to workplace discrimination to obtain justice in the courts. Other groups joining this brief include the NAACP, MALDEF, the National Women's Law Center, the Asian American Justice Center, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a diverse coalition underscoring the importance of this case to the civil rights community. Specifically at stake in the case is an employee's ability to present certain meaningful, relevant evidence at trial in support of her claim that she was the victim of unlawful discrimination.

Ellen Mendelsohn, who at age 51 was the oldest manager in her unit at Sprint, was fired as part of a company-wide reduction in force (RIF). Ms. Mendelsohn believed that she had been unlawfully selected for the RIF because of her age, and sued. At trial, she sought to call as witnesses other older Sprint employees to testify to age-bias within the company. However, the trial judge prohibited Mendelsohn from calling any other Sprint employees who did not have the same supervisor that she had had. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the "exclusion of such evidence unfairly inhibited Mendelsohn from presenting her case to the jury." The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Sprint's appeal.

Sprint and supporting amici from the business community have asked the Supreme Court to adopt a blanket prohibtion on the introduction of "other supervisor" evidence, something that would seriously undermine the ability of workers victimized by discrimination to vindicate their legal rights. The amicus brief that PFAWF has joined explains why the blanket prohibition sought by Sprint is inappropriate and why an employee's ability to introduce "other supervisor" evidence is vital to effective enforcement of our country's anti-discrimination laws. The brief was written principally by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP.

Oral argument has been scheduled for November 6, 2007.

PFAW