Eleventh Circuit Finds Former Employee’s Job Duties Were Replaced By Computer Program.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) because the older worker’s job duties were not assumed by a younger worker, but rather by a computer program.  Because the older worker was unable to point to a younger employee that replaced him, and without any direct evidence of age discrimination, he was unable to go forward with his age claim.  In reaching this conclusion, the court examined the former employee’s job duties, and those carried out by the new computer program.  A large part of the former employee’s job duties included coordinating efforts and communication between salespeople, designers, and customers. 

The employer decided to streamline this process by utilizing a computer program.  This computer program allowed its salespeople, designers, and customers to directly interact with each other, thereby making the older employee’s job position essentially obsolete.  The employer did, however, assign a current employee to “oversee” the program, and the former employee argued that this employee (who was younger) had replaced him.  The court disagreed, rejecting the notion that the younger employee had replaced the older worker.  Instead, the court found that it was the computer program that had truly assumed the former employee’s duties as an intermediary between the customers, salespeople, and designers. 

The younger worker did not actually perform these duties, and therefore could not be pointed to as the former employee’s “replacement” for purposes of stating a claim under the ADEA. Accordingly, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the employer.

NLRB Posting Rule Postponed

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) recently announced that it has postponed the effective date of its new rule mandating a workplace posting of an official Notice of Employee Rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  The rule, which had been scheduled to go into effect on November 14, 2011, will now become effective on January 31, 2012 (For more information about the new rule, see my article in the September/October 2011 issue).  The NLRB explained that the posting requirement has been postponed in order to ensure that employers, particularly small to medium sized companies, are aware of their obligations under the rule.