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Age Discrimination Legislation Challenges Supreme Court to Protect Older Workers

October 6, 2009

New legislation planned by three top Congressional Democrats was announced today, aimed to counter a Supreme Court ruling, helping employees who have experienced age-discrimination in the workplace enforce their rights.

Our California Employment Law Firm has been following this new legislation and the lawmakers' aim to restore civil rights protections for older workers. The bill was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, California Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This proposed legislation comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial Services in June--where employees claiming discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, must prove that age was the deciding factor in the employment decision, rather than other reasons, such as cutting costs or job performance. In Gross, the Supreme Court rewrote civil rights laws, making it difficult for employees to enforce their rights, and win age-discriminations suits.

Harkin stated that this country has had years of consistent standards, based on age, sex, race, national origin, or religion. The court ruling set a higher standard for proving age discrimination--forcing victims to face more of a burden in proving discrimination than victims alleging other types of discrimination. Harkin commented that by introducing the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, all older workers in this country can once again experience full rights and protections under the law.

This Act would restore the law to what it was prior to the Supreme Court decision on Gross--when a victim shows age discrimination to be a motivating factor in an employment decision, the employer must show compliance with the law, and take responsibility. Preserving the Age Discrimination and Employment Act is modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1991--where the "motivating factor" framework was established in sex, national origin, race and religion discrimination claims, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Supported by the AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the National Women's Law Center, This Act provides an anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation legal structure under which all employees can be treated fairly, and all forms of discrimination, recognized equally.

This is not the first time this year that lawmakers have challenged a Supreme Court ruling of an employment discrimination case. In a recent California Employment Law Blog post, we discussed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, passed into law in January by President Obama, making it easier for workers to challenge wage discrimination. According to Representative Miller, age discrimination in the workplace is equal to any other form of discrimination, and this Act will make sure that employees experience fair treatment and are not subjected to workplace decisions "based on an employer's prejudice, especially in this difficult economy."

In 2008, the EEOC received 24,582 charges of age discrimination, and according to the Labor Department, as of August, there were 2 million unemployed workers who were 55 years and older--an increase of 69 percent from last year. The number of unemployed workers 75 years and older increased by 33 percent from August 2008 to August 2009.

Our skilled Anaheim-based Labor and Employment Lawyers are knowledgeable about workplace age discrimination in Orange County and throughout Southern California. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of your age, contact Howard Law, PC today to schedule a free consultation about your rights.

Age Discrimination Proof Would Be Eased Under Democrats' Bill, Bloomberg, October 6, 2009

Democrats Move To Counter High Court on Age Discrimination, CQ.com, October 6, 2009

U.S. Sen. Harkin: Bicameral Legislation Will Protect Older Workers From Discrimination; Restore Civil Rights, Iowapolitics.com Press Release, October 6, 2009

Recession Pulls U.S. Senior Citizens Back to Work: Survey, Reuters/Yahoo, September 22, 2009

Related Web Resources

Facts About Age Discrimination, EEOC