The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled recently that a group of terminated African American employees could challenge their former employer’s reduction-in-force (RIF) as a discriminatory “particular employment practice” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, even though the plaintiffs had been selected for termination through multiple, and different, selection processes, none of which was shown to be discriminatory on its own. From a practical perspective, the ruling makes it much easier for individuals affected by a RIF to bring Title VII class wide disparate impact claims.

In Davis v. District of Columbia, No. 17-7071 (D.C. Cir. June 7, 2019), the plaintiffs claimed that the job cuts were confined to parts of the agency where African Americans were most highly concentrated. In allowing the plaintiffs’ attack on the RIF as a whole to proceed, the appeals court said that the issue was how the agency had decided to go about making termination decisions in general, rejecting the argument that there had not been one single RIF, but rather seven different sets of layoffs, each of which when viewed separately created no statistically significant race-based disparities.

The D.C. Circuit thus joins the Sixth and Seventh Circuits in ruling that class disparate impact claims can move forward even though the only common thread among several different selection processes was that they had been part of a RIF.

A copy of the Davis v. District of Columbia decision is available online.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.