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The Arizona Supreme Court recently issued a landmark decision that expands protection for employees against discrimination in the workplace. The ruling, which was issued in the case of Texas Roadhouse v. Lee, has significant implications for both employees and employers in Arizona.

Background

The case involved a former employee of Texas Roadhouse, who alleged that she was discriminated against based on her age and gender. The employee, a 46-year-old woman, was terminated from her position as a server after she was unable to complete a physical performance test. The test, which involved carrying a heavy tray of food, was a requirement for all servers at the restaurant chain.

The employee filed a complaint with the Arizona Civil Rights Division, which found that the physical performance test had a disparate impact on female employees and those over the age of 40. This means that the test had a disproportionate effect on these groups, even though it was not intentionally discriminatory. The case eventually made its way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The Court’s Decision

In its decision, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the physical performance test used by Texas Roadhouse was not job-related and consistent with business necessity, as required by state law. The Court found that the test was not necessary for the performance of the server position and that there were alternative methods for assessing server skills that would not have a disparate impact on certain groups.

The Court also clarified that in cases of disparate impact, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to show that the practice in question is job-related and consistent with business necessity. This means that employers must be able to demonstrate that the practice is necessary for the performance of the job and that there are no alternative methods that would have a less discriminatory effect.

Implications for Employees and Employers

This ruling has significant implications for both employees and employers in Arizona. For employees, it means that they have increased protection against discrimination in the workplace. They can challenge practices that have a disparate impact on certain groups, even if there was no intent to discriminate.

For employers, it is important to review hiring and employment practices to ensure that they are not unintentionally discriminatory. This includes physical performance tests, as well as other practices such as pre-employment screenings and background checks. Employers should also be prepared to provide evidence that these practices are necessary for the performance of the job and that there are no less discriminatory alternatives.

Conclusion

The Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Roadhouse v. Lee expands protection for employees against discrimination and places a greater burden on employers to justify potentially discriminatory practices. It is important for both employees and employers to understand their rights and responsibilities under this ruling. If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified employment attorney.

J. Horowitz
J. Horowitz

J. Horowitz leverages over two decades of experience as a seasoned employment law attorney in Arizona to offer insightful freelance writing on the same subject. After a successful career advocating for fairness and justice in the workplace, J. now dedicates his expertise to writing comprehensive articles, blog posts, and thought leadership pieces that illuminate the complexities of employment law.