EEOC Clarifies Reasonable Factors Other Than Age Defense

On March 29, 2012, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity issued new regulations regarding the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Specifically, the regulations relate to the “reasonable factors other than age” defense to disparate-impact claims. A disparate impact claim is when a company has a policy that appears to be neutral on its face, but in practice it disproportionately harms a legally protected group. A policy that has a disparate impacted based on age violates the ADEA unless it is based on reasonable factors other than age.

Under the new regulations, an employee who claims a company’s policy or practice has a disparate impact based on age is required to identify the specific policy he claims has a disparate impact on older workers. However, the employer has the burden to prove it has a reasonable basis for the policy other than age.

The regulations define “reasonable” to mean that an objectively reasonable employer would conclude the policy (1) is reasonably designed to meet a legitimate business purpose, and (2) was applied in a way that reasonably achieves that purpose. Some of the factors relevant to determining whether a factor on than age is reasonable include:Stressed_Mature_Business_Man.jpg

  1. The extent to which the policy is related to the employer’s stated business purpose;
  2. The degree to which the employer accurately defined and applied the policy, and provided guidance and training to the individuals who will apply it, in order to avoid age discrimination;
  3. The extent to which the employer limited the discretion of supervisors when they apply the policy;
  4. The degree to which the company evaluated the policy’s impact on older employees; and
  5. The extent to which the policy harms older workers in terms of the degree of harm and the number of employees who are harmed; and the degree to which the employer took steps to minimize the harm, compared to the cost of taking those steps

The regulations further clarify that the defense is only available in disparate impact case. It is not available in disparate treatment cases, meaning cases in which an employee claims his employer intentionally discriminated against him because of age.

Age discrimination violates the law in both New Jersey and New York. If you have been the victim of age discrimination in the workplace, please call us at (201) 777-2250 to schedule a meeting with one of our employment law attorneys.

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