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February 28, 2017

Collins co-sponsors bill to protect older workers from discrimination

Courtesy / Office of Sen. Susan Collins U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill to protect older workers against discrimination.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is co-sponsoring a bill to protect older workers against discrimination.

"The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act" would restore the ability of older workers to take legal action when age discrimination affects their professional opportunities, according to a release issued by Collins’ office. Additionally, it would reaffirm that workers may use any type of admissible evidence to prove their claims.

“Older employees bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the workplace, and we should do all we can to ensure that these employees are able to participate fully in the workforce,” Collins said in a statement. “I have advocated for many measures that would help end workplace discrimination … [and] it is a high priority of mine to ensure that seniors have the ability to do their jobs without facing age-related bias.”

Collins, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the bill along with U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., the ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

What the legislation would do

A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 held that age discrimination claims must prove that discrimination was not just a motivating factor but the sole or overriding factor in an adverse employment decision. This put a higher burden on older workers alleging age discrimination than on those alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin or religion.

The legislation proposed by Collins and the other U.S. senators would level the playing field for older workers by restoring the pre-2009 legal standards for age discrimination claims, ensuring that everyone has equal access to the courts and reinforcing the essential principle that no amount of age discrimination is acceptable in the workplace.

“Since the great recession, too many Americans in their 50s and 60s have had difficulty receiving a fair shot in the workforce,” Casey said in a statement. “This legislation will make sure that older Americans have the tools to fight back against any age discrimination. These are the Americans that have fought our wars and raised the nation’s children and they should not face age discrimination in the job market.”

AARP has endorsed this legislation, and in a letter of support, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said, “Until Congress passes this bill, too many older workers who have been victims of age discrimination will be denied a fair shake in our justice system. . . . The persistence of age discrimination in its many forms remains a significant barrier to older Americans’ retirement security.”

AARP study flags age discrimination

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Although the act marked an important step in protecting older workers from discrimination and has provided essential protections to millions of workers for decades, discrimination on the basis of age remains a significant problem, according to a 2013 AARP study.

The study found that almost two in three workers ages 45 to 74 reported experiencing age discrimination in the workplace — with AARP concluding that age discrimination is a key reason why many older Americans have trouble finding work after a period of unemployment and why many who are employed get paid less than their younger counterparts.

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