House of Representatives passes bill to protect older Americans in the workplace

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at protecting older Americans in the workforce by making it easier to mount age-discrimination suits.

The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act was introduced earlier this year by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill. It aims to restore protections for workers age 40 and older that were eroded in a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc.

The decade-old decision made it more difficult for older workers to prove that they’d experienced discrimination based on age.

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“Making cases more difficult to prove contradicts our responsibility to support older workers who have long been vulnerable to workplace discrimination,” said Scott in a Wednesday hearing.

If passed by both houses of Congress, the bipartisan legislation would reset guards for older workers that had been in place since the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 and make it consistent with protections against discrimination based on sex, race, religion and national origin.  

“Ageism is not only harmful to workers, but for companies, too, who miss out on the experience and expertise older workers bring,” said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer of AARP, in a statement.

Nearly 80% of workers aged 40 to 65 have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a May survey from AARP, which advocates for older Americans.

The coronavirus pandemic also took a toll — older workers who lost jobs struggled to reenter the workforce and had higher levels of long-term unemployment than younger workers.

The bill will next go to the Senate for a vote. The House of Representatives endorsed a version in 2020 that was not passed by the Senate.

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