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Disparate Impact/disparate Treatment Case Study

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Disparate Impact/Disparate Treatment Case Study

Disparate treatment occurs when a protected class member is treated differently from others, whether or not there is discriminatory intent; whereas disparate impact occurs when employment decisions work to the disadvantage of all of the protected class members whether or not there is discriminatory intent. The EEO Title VII prohibits employers from treating employees differently because of their membership in a protected class. Likewise, Title VII prohibits the employer from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on all members of a protected class. Legal guidelines designed to identify disparate treatment/impact are, at best, vague (Hr Guide, 2005).

Cases originally filed as disparate treatment often become disparate impact cases by way of appeal after appeal. The disparate treatment case of Raytheon Company v. Hernandez is a good illustration of the aforementioned fact. Joel Hernandez worked for Raytheon (and its predecessor company) for 25 years until he tested positive for cocaine use. His drug use violated company workplace conduct rules, so the company gave him the option to resign or be involuntarily terminated. Hernandez resigned, and the company put a note in his personnel file, which stated that he quit in lieu of being fired for misconduct. Two years later, Hernandez reapplied to be rehired by Raytheon. He claimed to be rehabilitated. Raytheon, however, had a “no rehire” policy for former employees who had been terminated for workplace misconduct.

After Mr. Hernandez was rejected for rehire, he contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to claim he had been discriminated against in violation of the American Disabilities Act (ADA). After an investigation by EEOC, Mr. Hernandez filed suit in District Court against Raytheon citing disparate treatment. He claimed the company denied his application for rehire because Raytheon Company regarded him as a drug addict and/or because of his prior record of drug addiction. Raytheon wanted Hernandez’ claim dismissed through summary judgment, by claiming its policy was not discriminatory because it applied to all former employees terminated for misconduct.

In return Mr. Hernandez offered the alternative argument that even if Raytheon’s no-rehire policy was facially neutral and did not violate the ADA in a disparate treatment case, the policy had a disparate impact on rehabilitated drug users. The District Court granted Raytheon’s motion for summary judgment on the disparate treatment claim and refused to acknowledge his disparate impact argument because it had not been brought up in a timely manner in the proceedings. Mr. Hernandez then appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with the Circuit Court regarding the disparate impact appeal not being raised in a timely manner. However the Ninth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision, holding that Raytheon’s otherwise lawful no-rehire policy was insufficient to deny Hernandez’ application because the policy had a disparate impact on recovering drug addicts under ADA.

The case was then granted review by the United States Supreme Court (U.S. No. 02-749, December 2, 2003). The specific question, which was never answered, was whether the ADA confers preferential rehire right on disabled employees who were legally terminated for violating their employer’s workplace conduct rules. Instead, the Supreme Court determined the Ninth Circuit had improperly applied a disparate impact analysis to a disparate treatment claim. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit for further proceedings with instructions to apply the correct legal analysis. The Supreme Court reached its unanimous decision by noting the analytical differences between disparate treatment and disparate impact claims under ADA. In addition, the Supreme Court determined that “(Raytheon’s) no-rehire policy is a quintessential legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for refusing to rehire an employee who was terminated for violating workplace conduct rules. If (Raytheon) did indeed apply a neutral, generally applicable no-rehire policy in rejecting (Hernandez’) application, (Raytheon’s) decision not to re-hire (Hernandez) can, in no way, be said to have been motivated by (Hernandez’) disability.” In comparison, if Hernandez had claimed disparate impact in a timely fashion, Raytheon would have

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