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Bipartisan bill would make it easier to file age discrimination claims

| Mar 29, 2021 | Age discrimination |

Today’s sharp political divide cuts through Michigan and across the other 49 states as well. So, it’s a rare treat to see bipartisan legislation emerge in the halls of Congress.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would make it easier for older workers to bring age discrimination claims against employers. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, and is co-sponsored by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, among others.

Restoration effort

The proposal would amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to restore the plaintiffs’ burden of proof that existed before a 2009 Supreme Court ruling established a higher standard of proof.

The ADEA prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees based on age in the following areas of employment:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotions
  • Compensation
  • Work schedules

Motivating factor standard

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would return age discrimination cases to a “motivating factor” standard. That is, an employee alleging age discrimination would have to show that a bias on the basis of age was a motivating factor in the act in question (such as being fired, being denied a promotion, etc.).

After the 2009 Supreme Court ruling in Gross vs. FBL Financial Services, plaintiffs had to show that age bias was the central cause of the action (firing, demotion, pay cut, etc.) they are challenging.

Sen. Casey said that “for decades a worker needed to prove only that discrimination was a factor in an adverse employment decision to make an age discrimination claim.” He said that after the 2009 high court ruling, “a worker needs to prove (age bias) was the deciding factor in that decision.”

Casey said the ADEA has been “significantly weakened” by the Supreme Court and that the message some employers have gotten is that “some age discrimination is perfectly fine.”

Congressperson Bobby Scott of Virginia introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and described the proposal as “a bipartisan bill that would finally restore the legal rights of older workers by ensuring that the burdens of proof in age discrimination claims are treated in the same manner as other discrimination claims.”

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