The Supreme Court ruled that courts may, on a case-by-case basis, consider allegations of discrimination by co-workers, offered as plantiff’s evidence of biased corporate culture. (Sprint v Mendelsohn 06-1221) While the case reviewed was an age discrimination case, this ruling affects all federal protected class employemnt discrimination suits.
Excerpt from Linda Greenburg’s NYT article (italics added):
While technically a victory for the employer (Sprint), because an adverse ruling was vacated, the decision is likely to prove more favorable in the long run to discrimination plaintiffs. That is because many lower courts, taking an approach similar to that of the Kansas district court, have been dismissing cases, granting summary judgment to employers on the ground that co-workers’ testimony, which often provides the strongest proof of a pattern of discrimination, is inadmissible.
Under the Supreme Court’s case-by-case approach, plaintiffs will have a greater chance of surviving summary judgment and getting their cases before a jury.
For more on the details of the case, SCOTUSwiki
Paul Secunda, Univ Miss School of Law, sums this way:
…plaintiff attorneys may be happy if the case just establishes that there isn’t an absolute bar to this type of evidence under 401.
Curiously, Clarence Thomas (!) wrote the opinion that now appears to create the opening for this kind of evidence.