American chief justice calls 'OK boomer' in age discrimination case

John Roberts awaits the arrival of the body of former US president George H.W. Bush at the US Capitol in December 2018

Babb, a clinical pharmacist working at the VA, sued the department over a series of decisions that affected her job duties, pay and opportunities for promotions.

The catchphrase "OK Boomer" went viral previous year as a tongue-in-cheek dig by young people at older generations.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether a federal employee had to prove she would have been given career advancements if it hadn't been for her age, or whether she could win her suit if age was merely one factor amongst multiple reasons she was denied. Teens and young adults now use the phrase regularly in social media in response to Baby Boomers, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as people born between mid-1946 and mid-1964. But is saying "OK, boomer" tantamount to discrimination?

However, Roberts expressed concern that this interpretation of the law was too broad, and could simply amount to "regulation of speech in the workplace".

"Well if the speech in the workplace.calling someone "boomer" or saying unflattering things about them in age, when considering them for a position, then yes of course", Roman Martinez, the attorney delivering the oral arguments Babb, replied back. "It doesn't have to play a role in the actual decision", he added.


Roberts pressed on. "So calling somebody a "Boomer" and considering them for a position would be actionable?" he asked.

A 5-4 ruling in the state of Washington: "The Washington State Supreme Court has invalidated key portions of a rule imposed by the administration of Gov. Jay Inslee capping greenhouse-gas emissions by fuel distributors, natural-gas companies and other industries".

It was the first time, according to databases of high court arguments, the somewhat pejorative phrase used by younger people to criticize the less flexible, tolerant and tech savvy ways of their elders has been uttered in the Supreme Court, where the nine justices range in age from 52 (Neil Gorsuch) to 86 (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).

This wasn't the first time the term "OK Boomer" was evoked in the hallowed halls of government.

In New Zealand, a 25-year-old member of parliament, Chlöe Swarbrick, used the phrase when speaking on climate change.

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