Third Circuit holds that workers in their 50s can sue under Federal age discrimination law when an employment policy disproportionately but inadvertently impacts them as compared to co-workers in their 40s

In Karlo v. Pittsburgh Glass Works, LLC, 2017 BL 6064, 3d Cir., No. 15-3435, issued January 10, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), which protects individuals over the age of forty from age discrimination, allows plaintiffs to proceed with a disparate-impact claim whereby only a “subgroup” or segment of employees over the age of forty are alleged to have been disfavored relative to younger employees. Disparate impact claims do not require proof of discriminatory intent, and instead seek to redress facially neutral policies that are “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation.” 

               

The facts before the Court of Appeals were as follows: The defendant was an automotive glass manufacturer that had been sued by a number of its former employees in connection with its downsizing practices. In 2008 the company engaged in several RIFs in an attempt to offset its declining sales. Unit directors were given broad discretion in selecting employees for termination.  The company did not train the unit directors in connection with its downsizing effort, nor did it employ any written policies or guidelines in connection with the RIFs.  Plaintiffs alleged that this practice resulted in the termination of a disproportionate number of employees over the age of 50. The question before the Court was whether “subgroup” disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the ADEA. The U.S. Court of Appeals answered this question in the affirmative, and held that workers in their 50s can sue under Federal age discrimination law when an employment policy inadvertently affects them more harshly than co-workers in their 40s.  In so holding, the Court explained that “evidence that a policy disfavors employees older than fifty is probative of the relevant statutory question: whether the policy creates a disparate impact “because of such individual[s’] age.”

                                    

This case is significant because it marks a split with several other circuits, specifically the Second, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits, which have thus far refused to recognize “subgroup” disparate-impact claims under the ADEA, and because it expands employer liability for age discrimination claims brought under the ADEA in the District of Delaware, District of New Jersey, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Pennsylvania, and Western District of Pennsylvania.

 

 If you believe you may have been the victim of age discrimination, the experienced attorneys at the Zazzali Firm stand ready to answer any questions you may have.  We can be contacted HERE.

 

 

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