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 was really a pretext for age discrimination because other, younger tellers committed the same errors yet were retained.Continue Reading Sixth Circuit decision shows similarly situated employees must truly be similarly situated in discrimination cases

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.
Continue Reading EEOC Publication Summarizes Requirements for Discrimination Waivers

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

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 the justices — the majority, which consisted of Justices Breyer (who authored the opinion), Stevens, Souter, and Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts, reversed the Sixth Circuit’s en banc ruling striking down the pension plan as facially discriminatory.

[This post serves as a follow up to my earlier posts on March 26, 2008 and January 2, 2008 regarding the decision in Erie County Retirees Association v. County of Erie by the Third Circuit upholding the EEOC’s rule allowing employers to coordinate retiree healthcare benefits with Medicare benefits, effectively resulting in equal total benefits between younger retirees and older Medicare-eligible retirees but unequal amounts spent on the two groups’ benefits because a portion of the Medicare-eligible retirees’ payments come from Medicare.]Continue Reading Supreme Court OKs Employer Use of Age as a Factor In Pension Plans

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. This effectively provides an exemption to the ADEA and is a solution to the problem created by the Third Circuit’s decision in Erie.
Continue Reading New EEOC Rule Makes an Exemption to Erie Decision and Allows Coordination of Healthcare Benefits for Retirees with Medicare