HR News & Trends, Legal Issues

EEOC Issues Final Regulations on Reasonable Factors Other Than Age

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By Eric B. Meyer

Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its “Final Regulation on Disparate Impact and Reasonable Factors Other than Age” (RFOA) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

Wait, wha, wha, what the heck is an RFOA? (Here’s the Cliff Notes version because, like, you could click on the link above, dudes.)

Here’s what the EEOC had to say about the new rule in this press release:

The final rule clarifies that the ADEA prohibits policies and practices that have the effect of harming older individuals more than younger individuals, unless the employer can show that the policy or practice is based on a reasonable factor other than age. The rule explains the meaning of the RFOA defense to employees, employers, and courts, and makes EEOC’s regulations consistent with Supreme Court case law. The rule applies to private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local government employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations. The final rule strikes the appropriate balance between protecting older workers from discriminatory, unreasonable business decisions and preserving an employer’s ability to make reasonable business decisions.”

Is an employment practice based on age?

Is it just me, or did that snippet fail to clarify anything?

Let’s try something different. How about we turn to the EEOC’s “Questions and Answers on EEOC Final Rule on Disparate Impact and ‘Reasonable Factors Other Than Age’ Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967″ –

8. What determines whether an employment practice is based on Reasonable Factors Other than Age?

An employment practice is based on an RFOA when it was reasonably designed and administered to achieve a legitimate business purpose in light of the circumstances, including its potential harm to older workers.

. . .

The rule emphasizes the need for an individualized consideration of the facts and circumstances surrounding the particular situation. It includes the following list of considerations relevant to assessing reasonableness:

  • The extent to which the factor is related to the employer’s stated business purpose;
  • The extent to which the employer defined the factor accurately and applied the factor fairly and accurately, including the extent to which managers and supervisors were given guidance or training about how to apply the factor and avoid discrimination;
  • The extent to which the employer limited supervisors’ discretion to assess employees subjectively, particularly where the criteria that the supervisors were asked to evaluate are known to be subject to negative age-based stereotypes;
  • The extent to which the employer assessed the adverse impact of its employment practice on older workers; and
  • The degree of the harm to individuals within the protected age group, in terms of both the extent of injury and the numbers of persons adversely affected, and the extent to which the employer took steps to reduce the harm, in light of the burden of undertaking such steps.

To establish the RFOA defense, an employer does not need to show that it considered each of these factors. The considerations merely describe the most common characteristics of reasonable practices. Similarly, if an employer demonstrates that it considered one or more factors listed above, it does not automatically establish the RFOA defense.

Make sense? Maybe sorta. It’ll have to do for now.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .
  • http://twitter.com/HRAthletics Joshua Westbrook

    Is it just me, or does it seem like this EEOC story always seems to play out like this:

    - first, some political organization gets offended because of an isolated incident that happens to a person belonging to a protected class
    - then, an overly burdensome law comes out that has some good intentions, but reaches too far and punishes those who are doing the right thing
    - next, that political organization back tracks and creates loop holes and exemptions to the law
    - finally, it seems as though the political organization is applying some rules a certain way for certain people and other rules another way for other people

    I’ve witnessed first hand how the EEOC has dismissed a likely discrimminatory situation because of a particular influential person of color who was able to talk away the actions.  Then I’ve seen the EEOC hammer a company, who is well known for diversity and placing minorities and women in leadership positions, over an isolated incident that did not reflect a fraction of a percent of the practices of the rest of the organization.

    Maybe it’s just me…