Regulator Goes After Job Fairs for Age Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission could put an end to college and high school job fairs by expanding age discrimination enforcement to job recruiting, despite its own outreach programs aimed at recent graduates, according to a new report.
The EEOC, which polices discrimination claims in the workforce, claimed in Villarreal v. R.J. Reynolds (2016) businesses that recruit young people for entry-level jobs violate age discrimination laws. The agency argued the court should apply disparate impact claims, which allow plaintiffs to allege discrimination if equal standards for hiring or promotion result in fewer people in protected classes—based on race, sex, or age—being hired or promoted.
“RJR and its recruiting agents relied on the resume guidelines under which RJR hired almost exclusively younger individuals to fill [its] positions,” the agency said in a brief filed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. “The Commission has long interpreted this language to authorize disparate-impact-based challenges to practices adversely affecting applicants.”
The court rejected that argument, saying the Age Discrimination in Employment Act only applied to current, rather than prospective, employees.
“The whole text of the Act makes clear that an applicant for employment cannot sue an employer for disparate impact because the applicant has no ‘status as an employee,'” the ruling said.
The agency’s effort has sparked claims of regulatory overreach from critics.