Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Big Employment Law Day at Supreme Court

4united_states_supreme_court_112904 Both cases being argued today before the Supreme Court are labor and employment cases: one employee benefits and one employment discrimination.

Ross Runkel provides the background documents and these brief descriptions:

Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory

The employer laid off employees during an involuntary reduction in force. Of the 31 employees laid off, 30 were over 40 years old. The workforce as a whole was 60% over 40. Some of the laid off employees sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), using a disparate impact theory. A jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. The 2nd Circuit (2-1) vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment for the employer. The 2nd Circuit majority held that plaintiffs have the burden to prove that the employer's "reasonable factors other than age" (RFOA) justification is unreasonable. The dissenting judge would look at the RFOA defense as an affirmative defense as to which the employer would have the burden of persuasion . . . .

Metropolitan Life v. Glenn

MetLife, an ERISA plan administrator, terminated Glenn's disability benefits on the ground that she had improved to the point of no longer being totally disabled. Glenn sued to recover her benefits. The 6th Circuit noted that MetLife operated under an apparent conflict of interests because MetLife both decides the claims and pays the claims. Although the trial court upheld MetLife's denial of the claim, the 6th Circuit reviewed the evidence and directed the trial court to reinstate Glenn's benefits.

Here is another backgrounder on the Glenn case.

As always, I will have an analysis of the oral arguments this afternoon.


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