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Court Rules for Workers in Age Bias Lawsuit

The case involves workers over age 40 who challenged their dismissals from the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York.

Thirty of the 31 workers laid off by the lab in 1996 were over 40. Twenty-six of those employees sued Knolls claiming that the layoffs violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

In a separate decision that favors companies, the court also ruled that states cannot prohibit employers from using state money to influence union-organizing drives. The court ruled 7-2 on California’s first-in-the-nation law that bars employers from using state money to influence employees’ views on unions in their workplace, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, backed by the Bush administration, said the state was trying to silence employers from weighing in on organizing efforts. Federal labor law allows employers to be involved as long as they don’t threaten reprisals.

And in another decision, the court ruled that criminal defendants with a history of mental illness do not always have the right to represent themselves, even though they have been judged competent to stand trial.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, say states can give trial judges discretion to prevent someone from acting as his own lawyer if they are concerned that the trial could turn into a farce.

The decision comes in the case of an Indiana man who was convicted of attempted murder and other charges in 2005 for a shooting six years earlier at an Indianapolis department store.

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