Appeals court eases way for ADEA claims

Older workers in Texas companies may be interested to learn about a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The ruling may make it easier for subcategories of older workers to file suits under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act with regard to the disparate impact theory of liability. The ruling also contradicts the opinions of other circuits, causing more uncertainty for national employers.

The defendant in the case terminated almost 100 employees. A group of workers, who were all over the age of 50, initiated a collective, putative ADEA action that alleged multiple offense, including disparate impact claims.

There are requirements for establishing a prima facie case for disparate impact claims under the ADEA. The plaintiff must be able to identify a specific, undisputed neutral policy and also offer statistical evidence that the policy resulted in a substantial disparity based on age.

While the plaintiffs in the case were able to identify a policy that unduly affected a subgroup of employees that were at least 50 years of age, the policy was favorable to the younger members of the protected class, or those that were between the ages of 40 to 50. After initially certifying a collective action, the district court later approved a motion to decertify and then ruled in favor of the employer.

On appeal, the court questioned if the subgroups of disparate impact claims were discernable under the ADEA. It determined that was the case and vacated the dismissal orders issued by the district court.

Older workers who believe that they are victims of workplace discrimination because of their advanced age should consult an employment law attorney. The ADEA is under the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the attorney might after reviewing the evidence might find it advisable to commence the legal process by filing a claim with the EEOC.

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