[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, applauded the House passage of H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. This bipartisan legislation would restore protections for older workers by ensuring they have the same legal protections against age discrimination as those that exist for discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, and religion. It is supported by numerous key organizations, including AARP, Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, National Council on Aging, Justice in Aging, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), National Disability Institute, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, National Education Association, AFSCME, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“Workers over 40 deserve robust protections from employment discrimination in order to ensure they have the same opportunities for financial stability and long-term employment as anyone else. Unfortunately, complaints of age discrimination have risen within the last two decades, and the Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling made it more difficult for older workers to bring legal discrimination claims,” said Jayapal. “I’m proud to support the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which will restore protections for older workers, applying the same standards that were in place prior to 2009. All victims of workplace discrimination deserve to have their claims adjudicated fairly.”
Enforcement statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show complaints of age discrimination are climbing. In 2000, the EEOC received roughly 16,000 charges of age discrimination. In 2017, the EEOC received over 20,000 complaints – accounting for 23 percent of all discrimination charges filed. A 2018 survey conducted by the AARP found that 3 in 5 workers age 45 and older had seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. The 2018 survey also found that three-quarters of older workers blame age discrimination for their lack of confidence in being able to find a new job.
In 2009, the Supreme Court made it harder for older workers to prove discrimination. In a 5-4 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc., the Supreme Court erected a new and substantial legal barrier in the path of older workers – imposing a much higher burden of proof on workers alleging age discrimination. This higher burden of proof requires the older worker alleging age discrimination to prove that age was the decisive and determinative cause for the employer’s adverse action rather than just a motivating factor in the employer’s action. This bill simply returns the burden of proof for workers alleging age discrimination back to the pre – 2009 burden of proof applied in age discrimination cases – returning the burden back to the same standard used for alleged discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion.