Kathy Castor, AARP Call on Senate to Pass Bill Protecting Older Workers From Age Discrimination

Last week, the U.S. House passed U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott’s, D-Va., “Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act” and now a Florida congresswoman wants the U.S. Senate to take up the bill.

The bill passed the House last week on a 261-155. According to U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel’s office, the bill “would ensure older workers will once again have the same legal protections against age discrimination as those that exist for discrimination based on race, sex, nationality, and religion.” Frankel took to the House floor last week to champion the bill.

This week, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., called on the Senate to pass U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s, D-Penn., companion bill. Two Senate Republicans–U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa–are cosponsoring Casey’s bill.

Castor paired up with AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson to urge the Senate to back Casey’s proposal on Wednesday.

“Age discrimination affects individuals across America, but it’s a particular problem here in Florida because we have a larger percentage of older neighbors,” said Castor. “It’s an insidious problem- as you get older, you might lose your job and then it’s very difficult to get hired back. And even if you do get hired back, it’s rarely ever at the same salary level.

“I’m happy to share that last week the House passed HR 1230- the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act to give our older neighbors additional tools to bring age discrimination claims. Listen to these Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statistics- in 2000, there were over six thousand claims of age discrimination filed. In 2017, that number skyrocketed to over 20 thousand claims, accounting for 23 percent of all discrimination charges. Under current law, it’s much more difficult to bring a claim based on age than discrimination based on sex, race or religion. We want to level the playing field and give our older neighbors the resources they need to bring these claims, get compensated and receive the employment opportunities they deserve,” Castor added.

“It’s interesting that these statistics reflect a time when we talk about historic low unemployment. Even when our economy is strong, we have the same challenges- older workers aren’t being hired and are being pushed out of work,” said Johnson. “I talked to a friend just last week who said they feel they’re being pushed out of the workforce, and he’s only 50. We think it’s important there be an even playing field for age discrimination just as there is with race, sex and other forms of discrimination. That’s what the bill the House passed would accomplish and we hope the Senate will take action on as well. We’re happy that this has bipartisan support, and we believe now is an excellent time to make the right choice.”

“We must make all of our neighbors can reach their full potential and there aren’t obstacles placed in their way,” said Castor. “This is becoming a real problem, as the Supreme Court made it more difficult to bring these claims a few years ago, and I’m afraid a lot of employers are taking advantage of it. The good news is that the House of Representatives last week passed this bipartisan bill to protect older workers, and now we’re calling on the United States Senate to take action.”

Castor was referencing a 2009 Supreme Court decision which her office highlighted on Wednesday.

“Prior to 2009, older workers alleging age discrimination in the workplace faced the same burden of proof as those who allege discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. This situation changed dramatically in 2009, when 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. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act returns the burden of proof for workers alleging age discrimination back to the pre-2009 standard applied in claims for alleged discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion,” Castor’s office noted.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

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