Dallas, Texas (WiredPRNews.com — Press Release) — In a recent United States Supreme Court opinion, the Court held that employers must prove their actions or policies are based on reasonable business decisions. Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab., __ U.S. __ (June 19, 2008).
Knolls, a government contractor, reduced its work force. It used established criteria to determine which employees to lay off. With one exception, the discharged employees were age 40 or older. The former employees sued, alleging Knolls violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) because the process it used to determine which employees to dismiss had a disparate impact on older workers. The company asserted that the factors it considered in making those decisions were “reasonable factors other than age” (“RFOA”). If true, the company would not be liable to the former employees.
The Supreme Court examined which party had to prove or disprove whether the factors considered by the company in deciding which employees to lay off were RFOA. The Court found that this burden belonged to the employer. The Court based its decision in large part upon the ADEA’s text and phrasing.
In light of this holding, an employer considering a reduction in force should carefully craft the criteria to be used in termination decisions to avoid a disparate impact on older workers. For assistance in conducting a reduction in force, contact the employment law firm of Clouse Dunn Khoshbin LLP at [email protected]