A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit may have an impact on the way Texas businesses operate day to day. The plaintiffs in the case filed their claim under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which was designed to prevent workplace discrimination based on age. In most ADEA disparate-impact cases, a company policy will be evaluated as to its effect on all employees who are 40 years old or older. The 3rd Circuit in this case, though, determined that the impact of a policy on a subgroup may be sufficient to disallow the policy.
The plaintiffs were a group of workers in the manufacturing technology division who were let go as part of the company's reduction in force. Each of the plaintiffs was over 50 years old at the time. The district court, where the case was initially heard, dismissed the claims on summary judgment, holding that the ADEA didn't allow the subgroup argument.
The 3rd Circuit disagreed, noting that the purpose of the ADEA is to prohibit discrimination based on age, and not just against people at or over 40 years of age. To refuse the claim would be to deny redress for discriminatory policies and to deny protection to individuals who need it. Three other federal appeals courts have issued contrary rulings, so the 3rd Circuit decision creates a circuit split.
The Supreme Court may have to weigh in on the issue in the future, now that the circuits are split. Going forward, company policies may need redrafting to ensure they meet the requirements of the ADEA. In the interim, however, people who feel that this aspect of their workers' rights have been unfairly dealt with may want to meet with an employment law attorney to see what recourse may be available.