- All The Way
- May 17, 2004
- Law Firm: McGlinchey Stafford, PLLC - New Orleans Office
The U.S. Supreme Court is docketed to hear a case on workplace protections for older employees that could make age bias suits more difficult to prove. The case is an appeal on behalf of police officers and public safety dispatchers in Mississippi, and will examine whether the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) permits lawsuits on grounds that an employer's action has a disproportionate impact on older workers.
According to the suit, officers and dispatchers with five or fewer years of tenure with the police department received proportionately greater raises than those with more than five years under the pay plan in dispute. The plaintiffs argued that this facially neutral plan gave rise to liability under a disparate impact theory because the plan resulted in pay increases to officers and dispatchers under forty years of age that were four standard deviations higher than the raises received by officers and dispatchers over forty.
The district court dismissed the claims on summary judgment. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in a case of first impression, that disparate impact ADEA claims were not actionable because the law was not intended to remedy age-disparate effects that arise from the application of employment plans or practices that are not based on age.
The First, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits have also held that disparate impact claims are not actionable under the ADEA. In contrast, the Second, Eighth and Ninth Circuits have found the disparate impact theory to be cognizable under the ADEA. The issue now reaches the court of last resort.