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High court to weigh claims of ‘disparate impact’ by age

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether workers who claim age discrimination can base their arguments on the fact that older workers at the company, as a group, were disproportionately affected by layoffs or another adverse action.

Allowing such "disparate impact" claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) could make it easier for older workers to win their cases. Reason: Proving disparate impact is usually easier than proving the company intentionally discriminated.

The case at hand, Adams v. Florida Power Corp. (No. 01-584), involves older workers affected by a series of layoffs in the 1990s.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the class-action lawsuit, siding with five other circuits that have doubted whether disparate impact claims are allowed under the ADEA. The 2nd, 8th and 9th Circuit Courts have said that because the ADEA's language parallels Title VII, disparate impact claims are allowed.

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