Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory
The "2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals" held that those business practices that have had a disparate impact effect on the older workers are now considered to be actionable under one national anti-discrimination law (Hamblett, 2004). The case does reaffirm a second Circuit precedent that had been set but which is at odds with what a majority of federal courts have held. The appeals court supported the idea that a layoff plan had been properly brought under the The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) although the company did not have the intention of discriminating.
The case Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory did in fact uphold the jury's findings that employees who are on the older side had lost their jobs through a layoff plan. This discrimination was unintentional. However, the policy did have an impact that was deemed discriminatory and the firm could have reached its goals through a different method that would not effectively discriminate. The reason for the suit had to do with the fact that thirty of thirty-one people who were laid off were over the age of forty. There were 26 plaintiffs who did go to trial while some of the others settled with the company on their own. In the end, the jury awarded plaintiffs a total award of $4.2. The case was appealed and at the time, Knolls argued that the law really does not allow disparate impact claims, citing Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604 (1993), where a claim involved disparate treatment and what was needed was proof of intentional discrimination. The Court claims that the Hazen Paper Court had not resolved the appropriate use of ADEA in terms of disparate impact. It was further stated that the decisions to come from other circuits do not necessarily overrule prior cases. The idea that disparate impact claims may not be allowed under ADEA is therefore rejected.
It seems that the major issue here is whether or not one can use age as a factor in terms of discrimination when the discrimination was not intentional. If for example it turns out that the people who are laid off are over the age of 40, even though no malicious intent is discovered, it still may be construed as age discrimination. This issue has been somewhat controversial for some time, as most litigants in age discrimination lawsuits realize that they will likely need some proof that a discriminatory practice had occurred. At the same time, it seems that if almost all individuals laid off were older than the rest of the company, disaffirmation seems to have occurred. The court agrees as evidenced by this case. The ruling of the court reasoned that if in fact so many older individuals got the brunt of company policy, then in fact they were effectively discriminated against. This is true even though there was no malice or intent to dismiss older individuals. Historically, there have been charges that individuals are let go because they cost...