Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory

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Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory

The "2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals" held that those business practices that have had a disparate impact effect on the older workers are now considered to be actionable under one national anti-discrimination law (Hamblett, 2004). The case does reaffirm a second Circuit precedent that had been set but which is at odds with what a majority of federal courts have held. The appeals court supported the idea that a layoff plan had been properly brought under the The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) although the company did not have the intention of discriminating.

The case Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory did in fact uphold the jury's findings that employees who are on the older side had lost their jobs through a layoff plan. This discrimination was unintentional. However, the policy did have an impact that was deemed discriminatory and the firm could have reached its goals through a different method that would not effectively discriminate. The reason for the suit had to do with the fact that thirty of thirty-one people who were laid off were over the age of forty. There were 26 plaintiffs who did go to trial while some of the others settled with the company on their own. In the end, the jury awarded plaintiffs a total award of $4.2. The case was appealed and at the time, Knolls argued that the law really does not allow disparate impact claims, citing Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604 (1993), where a claim involved disparate treatment and what was needed was proof of intentional discrimination. The Court claims that the Hazen Paper Court had not resolved the appropriate use of ADEA in terms of disparate impact. It was further stated that the decisions to come from other circuits do not necessarily overrule prior cases. The idea that disparate impact claims may not be allowed under ADEA is therefore rejected.

It seems that the major issue here is whether or not one can use age as a factor in terms of discrimination when the discrimination was not intentional. If for example it turns out that the people who are laid off are over the age of 40, even though no malicious intent is discovered, it still may be construed as age discrimination. This issue has been somewhat controversial for some time, as most litigants in age discrimination lawsuits realize that they ...

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...g went to the fact that even though the business did not purposely discriminate, it did in fact due to a policy that is discriminatory in nature. In other words, the true reason for the firing was directly related to substance abuse. Although the employee was technically not let go due to the abuse specifically, the fact that this occurred in fact is enough to render the policy unfair. I feel that this law provides great value to my workplace as, it protects those who have made mistakes at the workplace due to a disability. In this case it was substance abuse, but the same concept could be applied to other conditions that alter behavior.


Hamblett, M. (2004, August 26). 2nd Circuit: Impact of Employer Acts Grounds for Suit: Court rules on disparate impact theory of recovery. New York Law Journal. Retrieved April 4, 2005 from



No. 02—749. Argued October 8, 2003–Decided April 2, 2003.

Retrieved April 4, 2005 from

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