A U.S. Court of Appeals decision added strength to age discrimination cases brought by older citizens who are denied employment.
The decision issued Monday in the Manhattan courthouse also cleared the way for Thomas Taggart, 66, a former Time Warner Inc. employee, to go to trial charging age discrimination.Time Warner had argued that Taggart, a former print production manager who applied for a job with the New York-based company's Home Box Office division when he was 58, was overqualified.
But the defense argued that "overqualified" may just be a "buzzword" for too old.
The court of appeals agreed, saying that for older job applicants "such a reason may often be simply a code word for too old."
HBO gave the job to a 41-year-old applicant.
The appeals court said that "overqualified" could be a valid reason for rejecting a younger employee, who might continue looking for a more suitable job, but in a decision written by Judge Richard Cardamone, the court said that for older people "loss of employment late in life ordinarily is devastating economically as well as emotionally. Instead, an older applicant (who) is hired is quite unlikely to continue to seek other mostly non-existent employment opportunities."
Although the decision doesn't break new legal ground, it addresses some of the problems faced by people who bring age bias suits.
"It's very clear that overqualified is a buzzword for `we'll have to pay him too much,' " said Leonard Flamm, a New York attorney.