Luria Joins Effort to Protect Older Workers from Discrimination

February 6, 2020 by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Americans are working more and longer than ever, yet age discrimination worries often give older workers a lack of confidence in being able to keep their jobs or find new ones. 

That’s why the House threw its bipartisan support behind H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Act, which aims to restore workplace protections for older workers by overturning precedent related to determining cause.

Sponsored by Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, D-Va., the legislation is now being reviewed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee.

The bill reinstates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to establish an unlawful employment practice when the complaining party demonstrates age was a motivating factor, even if only in part and other considerations may have factored in. 

The legislation is a response to the 2009 Supreme Court ruling in Gross v. FLB Financial Services, Inc. that required complainants to prove that age discrimination was the sole motivating factor for the employer’s adverse action.

The result of the verdict in Gross allowed age discrimination to have a higher burden of proof than discrimination based on other characteristics. The Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Act mandates the return of legal standards to the pre-2009 evidentiary threshold and allows victims of discrimination to report a ‘mixed-motive’ claim to reduce wrongdoing.

A mixed-motive claim means that now complainants must prove that age was a factor, if not the deciding factor in an employment decision. This levels the playing field for older workers and reaffirms that workers may use any type of admissible evidence to prove their claims. 

“It is unacceptable that older Americans are routinely discriminated against in the workplace simply because of their age,” said Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia, a supporter of the bill. 

“Ageism has no place in today’s society and Congress must stand strongly against it in order to ensure that we have the most competitive workforce in the world – which includes our seniors.” 

Enforcement statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show complaints of age discrimination are on the rise. In 2017, they comprised nearly a quarter of all discrimination charges filed. In a 2018 study, AARP found that 3 in 5 workers over the age of 45 have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workforce. 

The Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Act acknowledges this, and applies the same standard of proof to other employment discrimination and retaliation claims, effectively amending four laws, the aforementioned ADEA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to ensure that all victims of discrimination can have claims adjudicated fairly. 

The Protecting Older Workers from Discriminations Act is endorsed by AARP, American Association of People with Disabilities, Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, National Employment Law Project, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Partnership for Women and Families, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

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