In Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Case No. 15-10602 (decided Oct. 5, 2015), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, sitting en banc, concluded that an applicant for employment could not bring a disparate impact claim of age discrimination.
Mr. Villarreal, who was 49 years old, had applied for employment at R.J. Reynolds. A contractor who screened applications for employment used guidelines provided by R.J. Reynolds. Those guidelines described the "target candidate" as someone "2-3 years out of college." They further instructed the contractor to "stay away" from "applicants in sales for 8-10 years." Opinion, p. 3. Mr. Villarreal's application was rejected. Mr. Villarreal sued R.J. Reynolds for age discrimination, contending that the screening guidelines had a disparate impact on applicants such as Mr. Villarreal who were protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The Court rejected Mr. Villarreal disparate impact claim, focusing on the language of 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(2). The Court concluded that the statute prohibited only classifications that affected a person's "status as an employee." The Court held that because an applicant for employment did not have the "status as an employee," that provision of the Act did not apply to Mr. Villarreal's claim.
The Opinion is available at http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201510602.enb.pdf
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