Richard Villarreal sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for age discrimination when he was denied work as a territory manager in November 2007. The Eleventh Appeals Court stated that as an applicant, he could not sue an employer for “disparate” impact because he lacked standing as an employee.
Disparate impact includes any rule, policy, or practice that appears neutral in theory but in reality has a disproportionate impact on a group of protected people.
When Mr. Villarreal applied for the position, the screening process included age guidelines. Of the over 1,000 people who were hired as territory managers from September 2007 to July 2010, only 19 were over age 40. Mr. Villarreal was 49 when he applied.
Since the Supreme Court declined to hear Mr. Villarreal’s case, an opportunity was lost to address ambiguities in the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.