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Ruling favors ADEA claims for older workers

Older workers who are a part of the workforce in New York may want to know about a recent ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision has set a precedent and may make it easier for certain groups of older workers to submit lawsuits under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, using the disparate impact theory of liability. In addition, the decision runs counter to the rulings issued by the Second, Sixth and Eighth circuit courts and adds an element of uncertainty for national employers.

In the case, a group of workers, all over the age of 50, filed a putative ADEA collective action against their employer after the company laid off about 100 people. The action asserted multiple claims, including disparate impact claims. Establishing a case for disparate impact claims requires a plaintiff to specify a facially neutral policy and submit statistical data that confirms the policy resulted in a significant disparity based on an employee's age.

After certifying the action, the district court reversed the certification on the grounds that the policy the plaintiffs identified protected only the younger members, those aged 40 to 50, of the protected class of older workers. A summary judgment was then granted to the employer.

However, the appeals court questioned if subgroup disparate impact claims could be recognized under the provisions of the ADEA. It ruled that they could, vacated the dismissal orders issued by the district court and concluded that comparisons of subgroups of older workers in a specific age group are allowed for ADEA disparate impact claims.

Workers can be victims of employment discrimination based on their age. If such discrimination occurs, an employment law attorney may recommend filing a claim under the appropriate federal law to hold the employer accountable.

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