Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Expert Statistical Analysis in $6.2 Million Age Discrimination Suit

Last Tuesday, a federal jury awarded two scientists more than $6.2 million in an age discrimination suit. Pennsylvania chemical company, PQ Corp., fired the pair of scientists when the company allegedly targeted older workers in 2005 layoffs. The ginormous numbers represented a combination of $3.5 million in compensatory damages for emotional damages, and a doubling of the back-pay award due to a finding of "willful" discrimination.

The plaintiffs utilized a statistical expert to examine liability issues regarding the layoffs. I am pleased to announce that I have obtained guest commentary from that very statistical expert! Stephanie R. Thomas is the Director of the Equal Employment Advisory and Litigation Support Division at Minimax Consulting, LLC. She was kind enough to provide Lawffice Space with a brief description of her work on Marcus, et. al., v. PQ Corp.:
"My analysis focused on the eight terminations within the Research and Development (R&D) workforce of PQ. I used an age-protected definition of age 55 and older, rather than age 40 and older, because the allegations in this matter were that individuals over age 55 were targeted.

At the time of the May 2005 terminations, approximately 30% of the R&D workforce was age 55 and older. 8 of the 8 (100%) terminated individuals were age 55 and older. My analysis statistically compared the actual and expected number of age 55+ terminations. I testified to five different statistical analyses. I performed an analysis of the R&D workforce as a whole, as well as four additional analyses controlling for different termination explanations offered by PQ:

(1) within the R&D workforce as a whole;
(2) controlling for Corporate Development Group membership among the R&D workforce;
(3) controlling for Corporate Development project funding source within the R&D workforce;
(4) controlling for whether an individual received any funding via terminated Corporate Development projects within the R&D workforce;
(5) controlling for whether an individual received 100% of his/her funding via terminated Corporate Development projects within the R&D workforce.

In all of the above analyses, I found a statistically significant surplus of older workers selected for termination. The findings of my analyses were consistent with the hypothesis that the termination decisions made by PQ in May 2005 were associated with the age of the employee."
Statistical analysis can be crucial in employment discrimination claims. For more on statistical analysis in employment law, follow Stephanie R. Thomas on Twitter or check out her blog, The 80% Rule and Other Fallacies.