September 14, 2006
2d Circuit Splits on ADEA Interpretation
In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab., 2006 WL 2338174 (2d. Cir. Aug. 14, 2006), a majority held that the plaintiff in an ADEA claim bore the burden to prove that the decision to terminate the plaintiff was improper, and was not based on "reasonable factors other than age" in terms of 29 USC 623(f)(1). The majority relied upon the development of the business necessity defense under Title VII and followed the reasoning that because under Title VII the lack of business necessity was deemed to be part of the plaintiff's burden of persuasion, and not an affirmative defense, so too it was under the ADEA. (The defendant has the burden of production, not persuasion, on business necessity.)
In dissent, Judge Pooler ignored this approach and relied instead on statutory construction principles to conclude it was an affirmative defense under the ADEA. It's a fascinating case, and one that pits in a way "legal context" -- the majority approach -- against plain meaning. Stay tuned. Neat case.
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