Ninth Circuit Reinstates San Francisco Police Age Discrimination Case

As baby boomers approach their retirement years, and a significant number of workers enter middle-age, an increasing amount of age discrimination cases have been cropping up in California and nationwide. In a recent case against the San Francisco police department, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a class of over-40 police officers are able to proceed with their age discrimination case after they were denied promotions. The case was reinstated under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and could bring justice to the officers who were wrongfully and illegally denied promotions.

NM_AMN_11gpLIGHT#10101According to Bloomberg, the lower court wrongfully rejected the proposed class for failure to raise a common question of law or fact. The Ninth Circuit determined that the officers in fact met requisite standards for class certification. Our Orange County age discrimination and employment law attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of workers throughout California. In addition to fighting for the rights of individual workers, we are dedicated to raising awareness to prevent future discrimination.

Plaintiffs for the attorneys stated that they believe the decision was the right one for the class and could have wider implications beyond the Ninth Circuit. The decision has the effect of reducing the burden of proving the merits of a case at the class certification stage. Critics of the decision allege that making class certification easier will mean that litigation will last longer, pose more risks, and be more costly to defendant employers.

According to the court opinion, the U.S. District court went beyond its scope when it faulted the proposed class’s statistical showing of disparate impact during the 2005 hiring policy for promotion. The trial court had challenged this evidence and ruled that it didn’t include any other analysis that could account for alternative explanations for the disparity in hiring. When applying a Supreme Court precedent, the court held that the officers only had to identify one common question of law or fact, not that they would prevail on the question.

In this case, the police officers were over the age of 40 and had taken an exam in 1998 that would place them on a list for eligible promotion to assistant inspector. These officers were not promoted when the department announced a new policy that was intended to be more flexible, but ultimately dismissed exam results and promotions were not given to individuals from the prior list. The officers sued alleging a disparate impact on older employees under the FEHA and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Class certification in employment lawsuits allow plaintiffs to bring one case when they share a common question of law or fact. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Supreme Court that the officers did meet their own burden by pointing to the San Francisco Police Department’s hiring process. According to the plaintiffs, the police department eliminated the results of a 1998 exam that the officers passed which they expected to help them achieve promotions to assistant inspector. The Supreme Court found that based on this single discriminatory action that had a statistical backing, the police officers met their burden of showing a common question of law or fact.

Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.

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