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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » EEOC Publishes Proposed ADEA Rules

EEOC Publishes Proposed ADEA Rules


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On February 18, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend its regulations to more clearly define the “reasonable factors other than age” (RFOA) defense under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This proposed rulemaking seeks to address the scope of the RFOA defense under EEOC’s proposed regulations concerning disparate impact under the ADEA, which were published on March 31, 2008.

This NPRM follows two important Supreme Court cases on the RFOA defense - Smith v. City of Jackson, 544 U.S. 228 (2005) and Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories, 128 S. Ct. 2395 (2008). In Smith, the Supreme Court allowed disparate impact claims of discrimination under the ADEA and, following the Court’s decision, EEOC has said that the “reasonable factors other than age” test is the appropriate standard for determining the lawfulness of a practice that disproportionately affects older individuals. Subsequently, in Meacham, the Supreme Court held that an employer bears both the burden of production and the burden of persuasion for a RFOA defense in an ADEA disparate-impact claim.

EEOC’s proposed rules clarify that the applicability of the RFOA defense turns on the facts and circumstances of each particular situation and whether the employer acted prudently in light of those facts. This standard is lower than Title VII’s business-necessity test, but it is higher than the Equal Pay Act’s “any other factor” test.

Relying on the “reasonable person” principles of tort law, EEOC proposed a non-exhaustive list of relevant factors including, among others, 1) the extent to which the employment practice is a common business practice; 2) the severity of the impact of the practice on individuals within the protected age group, both in degree of injury and scope of impact; and 3) the extent to which the employer took steps to assess and ameliorate the adverse impact of the practice on older workers.

The proposed regulations carry a 60-day public comment period. Written comments should be submitted by April 19, 2010, to Stephen Llewellyn, Executive Officer, Executive Secretariat, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, NE, Suite 4NW08R, Room 6NE03F, Washington, D.C. 20507. Comments may also be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov.