Houses passes bill to protect older adults from workplace discrimination

(© W. Scott McGill –

The House voted Wednesday to pass a bipartisan bill that would strengthen protections against workplace discrimination.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, which would restore workplace protections that were weakened by the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision pertaining to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This decision has required that plaintiffs seeking to prove age discrimination under the ADEA need to prove that age discrimination was the sole reason for termination, rather than just one factor.

This decision has made it more difficult for older workers to prove cases of discrimination and ultimately succeed in court.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), older workers are more likely to face long-term unemployment following the loss of their jobs. Additionally, data shows that complaints of age discrimination in employment decisions are rising.

“Following the 2008 financial crisis, we saw more baby boomers remain in the workforce for longer periods of time before retirement. And to exacerbate the ripple effects of the Great Recession, these hardworking Americans are now facing age discrimination in hiring and firing decisions,” said Rep. Abigal Spanberger, D-Va.

“Today, I joined my Republican and Democratic colleagues in advancing a bill that would prevent more older adults from experiencing the detrimental effects of long-term unemployment. I’d like to thank fellow Virginian Congressman Scott for leading this commonsense step, which would simply reestablish a standard that was already in place for several decades. At a time of increased employment among older Americans, I urge my colleagues in the U.S. Senate to take up this bipartisan bill for a vote,” Spanberger said.

Also joining in backing POWADA was Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va.

“It is unacceptable that older Americans are routinely discriminated against in the workplace simply because of their age,” Luria said. “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. I will continue to work across the aisle to ensure that seniors are treated with the respect that they earned.”

If enacted, POWADA would mark a return to the pre-2009 legal threshold for age discrimination claims—to include mixed-motive claims. As a result, the bill would require that age is only one of the factors in a plaintiff’s lawsuit following termination—not the sole factor.

Specifically, the bill would amend four laws to make sure all victims of discrimination—including older workers—can have their claims fairly adjudicated. POWADA would amend the ADEA, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act to initiate the return to a pre-2009 threshold of discrimination evidence.

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press