Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts asked an attorney Wednesday if the use of the phrase “OK, boomer” by an employer could qualify as age discrimination.
In a work discrimination case first brought forth by Noris Babb in 2014, the Florida resident alleges that the Department of Veterans Affairs denied her promotion opportunities because of her gender and age. Babb’s attorneys were tasked with making the case to the Supreme Court that her age was a “motivating factor” in the alleged discrimination.
It’s unclear from the court transcript if Babb had actually been referred to as a Baby Boomer during her time at the VA; Roberts used it to describe an example of a potentially “actionable” offense.
“Let’s say,” Roberts hypothesized, in the course of a “weeks-long process,” a hiring manager said “OK, boomer” just once to an applicant.
Babb’s attorney, Roman Martinez, said the phrase shows disdain for older candidates, therefore proving potential discrimination based on age.
Roberts responded that such a definition could limit free expression.
“Your position is going to become a really just a regulation of speech in the workplace,” Roberts told Martinez.
The ruling will determine how federal workers can claim age bias under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.