Employer Law Report

Tag Archives: ADEA

Sixth Circuit decision shows similarly situated employees must truly be similarly situated in discrimination cases

Employers facing workplace discrimination claims in the 6th Circuit should find some comfort in the court’s recent decision in DeBra v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., which endorses a heightened standard for plaintiffs to demonstrate that they were treated less favorably than similarly situated employees outside their protected class.

The plaintiff worked as a bank teller for Chase until she was terminated for on-the-job errors, such as overpaying customers, leaving bank funds unsecured on counters and accidentally failing to return bank cards to several customers. She alleged, however, that the bank’s reliance on these errors for her termination …

EEOC Releases Proposed Rule Affecting RFOA Defense

In response to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released for public comment a proposed rule construing the “reasonable factor other than age” (RFOA) defense under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). 

In Smith v. City of Jackson and Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Company, the Supreme Court held that the RFOA defense acts as a complete bar to disparate impact liability where an employer demonstrates that its facially neutral policy or practice, which had a disparate impact on older workers, was based on a reasonable factor other than the plaintiff’s age. …

EEOC Publication Summarizes Requirements for Discrimination Waivers

On July 15, 2009, the EEOC published “Understanding Waivers of Discrimination Claims in Employee Severance Agreements,” a document directed to employees facing layoffs. The publication is not apparently intended to change existing regulations, but rather to summarize the legal requirements for severance agreements under the ADA, Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, and, separately, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

As noted by the EEOC’s summary, in order to minimize the risk of potential litigation, many employers provide laid-off employees with optional severance agreements, by which employees may obtain certain compensation or benefits in exchange for releasing the employer from …

Hockey Firing Raises Age Discrimination Issue

Generally, the firing of a professional sports team’s general manager is not going to raise my interest as an employment lawyer, but the comments made by the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks after Dale Tallon was fired certainly piqued my interest. Those hockey fans in the audience may know that Tallon’s firing came shortly after the NHLPA filed a grievance claiming that he failed to send out timely qualifying offers to players that were restricted free agents. Rather than risking those players becoming unrestricted free agents, Tallon quickly signed them to long term contracts that probably aggravates the team’s salary …

U.S. Supreme Court Holds That Plaintiffs Retain Burden of Proof in Mixed-Motive ADEA Cases

So-called “mixed motive” cases, where there is evidence of unlawful bias but also evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for an employment action, have generated a great deal of debate over the applicable burden of proof. In 1989, a divided U.S. Supreme Court held in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins that, once a plaintiff has proven that unlawful animus was “a motivating factor” in an employment decision, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to prove that it would have taken the same action even absent the unlawful animus. This approach was essentially ratified by Congress when it approved certain amendments to …

United States Supreme Court Holds That Collective Bargaining Agreements May Require Union Members to Arbitrate Discrimination Claims

On April 1, 2009, in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court clarified an issue of confusion among lower courts when it held that “a collective-bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably requires a union member to arbitrate ADEA claims is enforceable as a matter of federal law.” 

The case, 14 Penn Plaza, LLC v. Pyett, No. 07-581, 556 U.S. ___ (2009), is a marked departure from established precedent in some jurisdictions and welcome news for employers who often prefer to present their cases to an arbitrator, rather than a jury. 

 

Until 14 Penn Plaza, the Supreme Court’s …

Supreme Court OKs Employer Use of Age as a Factor In Pension Plans

In Kentucky Retirement Systems v. EEOC, No. 06-1037, 2008 WL 2445078 (U.S. June 19, 2008), the Supreme Court recently held that “where an employer adopts a pension plan that includes age as a factor” (in determining eligibility for retirement with pension benefits), and the employer subsequently “treats employees differently based on pension status,” the plan does not automatically violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Rather, the Court held that the plaintiff challenging such a policy must show that the differential treatment was “actually motivated” by age. In a 5-4 decision — with a rather strange alignment of …

Supreme Court declines to hear retiree benefits case

This is an update to my prior post on January 2, 2008 regarding retiree healthcare benefits.

A legal battle dating back to 2000 regarding retiree benefits came to a close recently.  In 2000, the Third Circuit ruled that treating Medicare-eligible retirees differently than younger retirees violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).  This prompted the EEOC to issue an exemption to the ADEA allowing employers to reduce or eliminate retiree healthcare benefits for Medicare-eligible retirees, while providing higher levels of benefits for those retirees who are not Medicare-eligible.  The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) challenged the EEOC’s authority to issue …

New EEOC Rule Makes an Exemption to Erie Decision and Allows Coordination of Healthcare Benefits for Retirees with Medicare

On December 26, the EEOC announced a new rule that makes it easier for employers to help retirees maintain adequate healthcare benefits.  In particular, employers that provide retiree healthcare benefits may coordinate those benefits with Medicare benefits without engaging in age discrimination based on the difference in ages between younger non-Medicare-eligible retirees and older Medicare-eligible retirees.

In today’s employment landscape, fewer employers provide retiree benefits.  This forces many retired employees to rely solely on Medicare benefits to cover increasing healthcare costs—at best, a difficult situation.  As a result, many employers are searching for viable ways to continue to provide healthcare …

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